How do Chefs Really Feel about Cell Phones in Restaurants?
December 23, 2014
We asked 10 chefs their opinions on texting, calling, and taking photos in restaurants
How do Chefs Really Feel about Cell Phones in Restaurants?
How do restaurateurs and chefs really feel about cell phone use in restaurants? We reached out to restaurant professionals from all across the country, and their opinions may surprise you.
Chef Martha Wiggins, Sylvain, New Orleans
“I am always flattered when someone takes a photo of a dish I've prepared before they eat it. However, one is enough; then let’s eat while it's still hot. It always pains me to see two or three people at a table, all with their eyes on their smartphone, not talking, and it seems to defeat the purpose of going out and being in other people's company and enjoying the food in front of you.
“I do enjoy perusing the news or weather when dining alone, or Facebook while I have some time to myself. I try to refrain from texting or taking calls while out to eat, though, and make an effort to take care of that stuff beforehand. However, sometimes duty calls and you have to make yourself available because of work or family. Occasionally I am guilty of placing a cheese order that has to be in by 6 p.m. or I won't have cheese for the week, or texting my seafood guy because my sous-chef just called and said they sent tuna instead pf redfish, or answering a call from my dad real quick to say, ‘Yeah, I'm doing fine,’ and I'll call him later. In the company of close friends, who are the only people I will dine out with, this informality is understood, but then I go about having a great time, eating and drinking and laughing with friends and enjoying the moment.”
Judy Joo, owner of Jinjuu (opening in London in early 2015) and host of Korean Food Made Simple on Cooking Channel
“Anything that distracts and interferes with the overall ambiance of the restaurant and disturbs other guests is a faux pas. Talking loudly on the phone is always annoying. Taking pictures of the food is fine, but no flash photography, please. Texting doesn't really bother me, but it is a bit rude to your guests who are there to interact with you and not watch you focus on your phone.”
Chef Ali Loukzada, Café Serai at the Rubin Museum, New York City
“I think cell phone use and text messaging is very rude and disrespectful to do at the table, especially to your guests or friends around you. Pictures, however, I do not particularly mind, unless you’re going to post it on Yelp!”
Jason Weiner, Executive Chef/Proprietor of Almond NYC and L&W Oyster Co., New York City
“I know there are restaurant people out there who have a problem with this, but I really couldn't care less. And even if I did care, why would it matter? People are paying money to dine at my place, I'm not about to weigh in on their level of etiquette. On the other hand, managers, host staff, or waiters on the phone while on the floor? That drives me bonkers, be it at one of my places or someone else's.”
Cynthia Kallile, Chief Meatloaf Maker/Owner/Author, The Meatloaf Bakery, Chicago
“We’re comfortable with our customers snapping away. And we love it when they post their pics on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets. We’re also rather flexible with phone-talking and texting, though most people typically do not talk on their cell phones while enjoying lunch or dinner at The Meatloaf Bakery. As for me, I love to text and share my dining experiences with others particularly if I’m dining alone. My phone is good company, though I don’t use it to talk as that can be distracting.”
Chris Marchino, Executive Chef of Spiaggia/Cafe Spiaggia, Chicago
“I think when people take photos of the food it is a pretty high form of flattery. It’s a compliment that they deem your food to be photo-worthy. Unless, of course, they are getting ready to slam it on Instagram, but how often does that happen? As for talking on the phone or texting during a meal, I guess it all depends on who they are with. If the person/s they are dining with aren’t bothered, then we shouldn’t be. But, it’s always good to remember your surroundings and think about other diners and how using a cell phone could interrupt their experience too.”
Eric Miller, Bay Kitchen Bar, East Hampton, New York
“For me, using cell phones in the restaurant prevents diners from interacting with their dining companions, which is insulting. It also prevents the staff, who are trying to provide you with hospitality, from doing so. Like a great therapist once said, bringing outside people into your conversations dilutes and distracts from the people you are with. If you are a doctor or parent on call, have the ringer on silent. Otherwise, no cell phones please!”
Sean Olnowich, Executive Chef at Bounce Sporting Club, New York
“This is definitely a touchy subject for a lot of restaurateurs. As for me, I'm both for and against them, depending on their use. When it comes to people speaking on the phone while at the table, this a big no-no. It is not only rude to your guests, it is extremely obnoxious to other patrons dining around you, that have to listen to you speak on the phone, which is usually at a volume way louder than you would normally speak in person. As we understand, sometimes there are urgent matters, but one should politely excuse themselves in the event they must speak on the phone, and go to an area that will not interrupt the dining experience of others around them. Texting should also be kept to a minimum as it is once again, rude to your guest to constantly be on your phone instead of enjoying your company. I'm all for people taking pictures of the food, beverages, and ambiance so they have a memory of the restaurant experience. In the digital age that we live in, people usually post their experiences through photos on social media, which is a form of free advertising for the establishment, and only makes the viewing public interested in trying new places they haven't been yet.”
Chef Joe DiMaio, Stars Rooftop & Grill Room, Charleston, S.C.
“I get to see my guests up close and personal every night at the restaurant because of our open kitchen, so I've seen a lot of positive and negative cell phone usage in the past few years. The positive is that these paying guests love the way your food looks so much that they are sharing it on social media, which in turn boosts popularity of our business. The negative is that they could be texting their boyfriend while the server is explaining the menu, or writing an email when their food has already been on the table for five minutes getting cold. I've heard some people say they don't want cell phone use in their restaurant, restaurant critic Bill Addison says all he wants for Christmas is a camera on his phone that takes perfect pictures with no flash in dark restaurants. Who is going to stop him? Not me; I mean, isn't the guest always right?”
Joshua Stern, founder of I Know The Chef
“Operating a few food start-up apps (I Know The Chef and I Know The Winemaker), I've had my fair share of experience of calls and texts during meals. With everyone being available on their smartphones as much as we are these days, it's hard to avoid phone usage during meals. Sometimes, there are situations that come up that you have to tend to. That being said, if you're on a date and want there to be a second, don't check your phone until after dinner...
“For a lot of people these days, including myself, photo taking in restaurants has become part of the experience. It allows diners to connect and share their meal in an amazing way. The entire dining experience is enhanced by connecting with dish details, sharing with other enthusiastic food lovers and taking note of favorite meals at restaurants you're excited to dine at. In my opinion, it should be limited to an extent and we should be mindful of our surroundings. Once the photo is taken, we should concentrate on our company, but I don't see anything wrong with photo sharing and think it's tons of fun!”
Nadia G., host of Sick Kitchens with Nadia G. on ulive.com
“I don't mind it at all. Phone fiddling is now a bona fide part of our culture. Plus, [cell phones are] a great distraction from social anxiety due to the existential realization that nothing really matters, and that ultimately you will die alone.”