I know blogging waiters are supposed to be deeply critical – even outraged – by everything their guests do, but I have to break form here.
We’re all cell phone users. Even in restaurants. I don’t think even 5% turn them off entirely. The conscientious put them on vibrate. The rest don’t bother.
My position is, I don’t care. Use them or not. It’s your dining experience. To the degree it affects other diners’ experience, that’s on you, not me. I’m not policing people on that.
I find that behavior problems in restaurants generally are an even split between true offenders and a-holes who can’t accept other people having a good time. Or similarly, a-holes who don’t understand they’re having dinner in a public place, not their own dining room.
The server trying to mediate such problems is in a no-win situation. Usually it’s another table in his station. He alienates one or the other or both. Tips are blown either way. The ‘offending’ table in another servers’ station causes consternation from the other server because now his table is pissed, while yours is happy. He gets screwed.
Usually I pretend that I said something to the offending table. Sometimes I’ll say something subtle but non-confrontational pointing out the offending behavior: ‘I thought there was a riot going on over here and I rushed right over . . . Haha.’ Or, ‘I’ll wait and come back when she’s done with her phone call.’
But 95% of the time I stay out of it. Let someone make an ass of himself; it’s not my problem. Showing extreme forbearance in the face of obnoxious behavior usually gets me great tips not just from that table, but from surrounding tables observing my patience. ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ they’ll say.
All that said, I think people using their cell phones at the table is rude to their dinner companions. I don’t care about me. It’s no different to me, if you think about it, whether they’re talking on their phone or to their fellow diners. I’m supposed to stay out of their way and do my job around it.
And what difference is it, to other tables, if they’re talking loudly on the phone or talking loudly to their companions? Sometimes I think people get pissed at things because they think they should be pissed.
The ringer thing is pretty bad, though. You should expect chatter, talking, shouting, clinking of silverware and glasses, music, even an occasional baby crying when you go out to a restaurant. But you shouldn’t have to be jarred by bells, and sirens, and rap or rock ‘n’ roll ringtones.
Finally, to characterize restaurant cell phone users, I think they are self-centered people. They’re Number One – after the staff, the rest of the diners, and most importantly, the people they’re dining with. Breaking bread is a sacred social tradition. It’s a time to commune with people, talk, enjoy a moment. When a person is scorning his present company for someone miles away, it’s extremely disrespectful.
Thinking about it more, I’ll hedge a bit on the use of cell phones at lunch. Often, these are business people who are only eating because they have to do it to survive and get through the rest of the day. If they weren’t in a restaurant, they’d be in the office gobbling snack machine crap and washing it down with cold coffee. A restaurant lunch is really just a slightly less structured part of their work day. In other words, they may be in a restaurant, but they’re still working. And it doesn’t seem, at lunch, that anyone ever minds people using their phones.
I’m just happy to have them. If we didn’t get their money, it would be Nestle, Mars, or Frito-Lay.