More than 350 franchises now offer this family-bonding challenge.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
© Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here's the feel-good story of the week, though it paints a rather bleak picture of the modern American dinner: Families that eat at Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants, and who can't stand to talk to each other and thus text friends and check email incessantly, can now get a free dessert (something you probably wouldn't have ordered anyway) if everyone can lay off the phones for the duration of the meal.

The idea was dreamed up by franchise owner Brad Williams, who's a Chick-fil-A franchise owner and father of four. At home, he imposed a strict a "no cell phone" rule at the dinner table. It worked so well he implemented the "Cell Phone Coop" challenge at his restaurant. Upon entering, guests see a small, square box (the coop) on each table. They are supposed to place their phones in the box for the duration of the meal—no retrieving it when you hear it buzzing or ringing. And if they pass the challenge—eating and talking without the distraction of cell phones—they receive a free Chick-fil-A Icedream.

The challenge is so effective—and popular—that 350 Chick-fil-A restaurants now offer cell phone coops.

Note: This is not the first time that a restaurant has created an incentive to keep guests off their phones. Back in 2014, Sneaky's Kitchen in Sioux City asked diners at tables to put their phones into a box and refrain from using the devices during the meal. If successful, the restaurant awarded a 10% discount on the meal.

Americans today spend an average of 4.7 hours per day on their phone, according to a 2015 Informate Mobile Intelligence study.