Distracting devices are tucked away in a "phonetentiary," a locked box at the table.
For anyone addicted to their Android or iPhone—pretty much everyone—not glimpsing at that four-inch screen for the duration of an entire meal can feel like a staggering feat. Now, one restaurant is aiming to stop mealtime tweeting and texting altogether with one foolproof preventative measure: locking up customers' phones.
At London's Tea Terrace Restaurants and Tea Rooms, distracting devices can be tucked away in the "phonetentiary," a small, combination-locked box at the table, which will put those push notifications out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind. The combinations to each phonetentiary are known only by staff, so diners aren't able to suddenly succumb to the urge to snap photos of their meals.
The boxes, which are disguised as books as to not ruin the tea time ambiance, will also be available for customers to purchase and test out on their own friends and family members.
"We want to bring back good old conversations," Tea Terrace director Rowena Shouly tells City A.M. "Very often we see guests, especially families with tweens or teenagers, not engaging in conversation because the children are on their smart phones. Or sometimes, friends would be busy posting photos of themselves at our tea rooms or their food on social media."
According to Rowena, this kind of antisocial behavior goes directly against the traditions they're trying to uphold. "In the old days the tradition of afternoon tea was a social occasion for guests to enjoy conversations and a bit of gossip," she says.
Rowena is hoping that the addition of the phonetentiary to the restaurants will allow diners to focus less on what's going on in cyberspace, and more on the meal in front of them—even if it means sacrificing a great tea house Insta in the process.