Getting families to put down their tablets and phones and talk to each other can be hard, but one restaurant chain is trying to persuade them.
In a trial scheme parents willing to hand over their devices to restaurant staff will get free children’s meals.
Frankie & Benny’s said figures showing children want parents to spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them, prompted the idea.
About 10% have tried to hide a parent’s handset to get attention, it said.
And nearly twice that many said it seemed their parents preferred to be on their phones than to talk to their children.
Over a quarter of parents admitted they checked their phones during family mealtimes while 23% did so while their child was talking about their day.
The survey — commissioned by the restaurant chain — quizzed 1,500 parents and children.
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During the «No Phone Zone» promotion, which runs from 29 November to 7 December, Frankie & Benny’s will give families a box in which they can leave their devices.
No one will be forced to take part, the firm stressed, but staff will be «actively encouraged» to get diners to participate.
The chain, which has 250 restaurants, also said it would look to roll out the initiative on a permanent basis if it is successful.
Skip Twitter post by @alexislmartin
Where is this magical place and how do I get there?
— Alexis Martin (@alexislmartin) November 28, 2018
Some people welcomed the move on Twitter while others were sceptical.
Alexis Martin said: «Where is this magical place and how do I get there?»
And Sue Lamming tweeted: «What a great idea, but will families know what to say to each other?»
Skip Twitter post by @dresserman
I bet it's to prevent customers complaining via Twitter/Facebook at their table over an inexplicable wait time when there are only 7 customers in the restaurant. https://t.co/GNQ60LoYf0
— Steve Dresser (@dresserman) November 28, 2018
But retail analyst Steve Dresser wondered if was just a cunning way to temporarily stop people complaining about the service on social media.
«We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we’ve found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time,» a spokesman said.