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The Great Debates Cell Phone
Usage in

Reader Feedback:

I enjoy reading your newsletter each week. A few weeks back the major topic of conversation was the use of cellular phones in restaurants. I read with amusement as individuals seemed to get really worked up about this topic. I never thought it was a big deal... until now.

Recently one of our franchised restaurants was the site of a cellular phone user that was attacked by another patron because he was talking too loud. A guest was speaking loudly on his cell phone during lunch in one of our fast food restaurants. He was asked by another couple to lower his voice, he ignored them and they left. Two other men walked over to this cell user and companions table. They shouted at the talker and tried to grab his cell phone. In the scuffle the cell user and his companion were punched in the nose and face. The attackers then fled the scene. The two men refused medical treatment and did not press charges, but the incident was described in the local paper. The cell user said "I won't be using my cell phone in restaurants anymore".

While the story is comical it brings serious issues that I have to deal with. Our HR and Legal department along with myself in PR had a conference on the situation. There was a real concern about our liability both from any medical bills resulting from the scuffle and if we may be sued over the incident. Luckily nothing has become of the matter other than some bad/comical press. For everyone out there that doesn't think of it as a big deal (cell phone users in restaurants) learn from my lesson and have a game plan prepared. Luckily we did not set any precedents, but it came very close! We sent out a memo describing the managers duties to provide a safe environment for our customers, but it is a very fine line!

Clayton M. Dover
Sydran Marketing -

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Cell phones do not only cause a lot of noise, they REALLY make a servers' job hard. People seem to think that it is OK to ignore the waitress when she comes to take an order. But as she's walking away, she's told to just wait one more minute, "I'm ready." So, she waits, and waits.........

Sooner or later a decision has to be made :Walk away and wait on the customers that are really ready and piss the phone-guy off, or keep standing there while the food in the pass-bar gets cold and other customers grow angry for being made to wait? Come on cell-phone users -- Give us all a break and turn off the phone for 30 to 45 minutes!

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The following tidbit was found printed in a newsletter from Amanda's Restaurant in Hoboken, NJ.

Cellular phones are a great invention. Short of having a mechanic as your co-pilot, there could be no greater comfort for the driver on a long car trip. They do, however, have their limitations. They needn't be restaurant tabletop adornments. Surely, a parent may wish to be in touch with a babysitter or a transplant surgeon should be informed that a body organ awaits. We want that customer to be reachable.

As cellular phone etiquette evolves, we think the proper behavior is to make and receive calls away from the table. One may slip off to the restroom or to the sidewalk out front and not risk the eye-rolling of your fine dining neighbors.

Let this also serve as a public service piece of advice to customers who might not realize how silly they look shouting into a pocket-sized phone. You'd want someone to tell you if you had spinach in your teeth, wouldn't you?"

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I eat out about twice a day - 5 days a week due to a busy workload (and laziness about cooking I guess). Anyway, I'm surprised to hear that no one seems to notice the LOUD way in which most cell phone users seem to "need" to speak to the person on the other end of the line. Just a few minutes ago I stopped into Seattle's Best to grab a cup of coffee and a guy at the other end of the long room was SO LOUD on his phone that the people behind the counter were having trouble communicating to those of us on the other side. This is what I see as the normal routine. The cell phone users cannot keep their voices down to a normal conversation because their reception is so poor I suppose. Either that or they are simply oblivious to the fact that they are ruining the experience for everyone else.

Then, there are those people who like to excuse themselves to come over next to MY table so as not to disturb the people at THEIR table - sorry this doesn't cut it. People are going to be inconsiderate and rude as long as we let them. I hate to sound cynical but experience has shown me this is simply the fact.

And the cell phone ringing - it's obnoxious. My husband routinely "corrects" people who are usually rude in return - even when I and other dinner guests chime in to agree with him.

I say bring on the jammers.


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I have to say I think cell phones should be banned PERIOD! Extreme you say? Perhaps. However as a Maitre'd at a 5 star restaurant where I already have to deal with self-important, entitled a$$holes I find the cell phone just an extension of that behavior. Ten, fifteen years ago only the rich and famous had cellulars. The rest of us grew up not knowing about instant gratification and had to use payphones, talk at home, get busy signals etc. We only knew how to be patient and wait. And I think we all came out okay. So what went wrong??? If you can't take 2 hours out of your precious time to sit down at a nice restaurant and enjoy yourself (a luxury MANY people do not have!), then stay home! I don't acknowledge people who approach my desk with their phone attached to their ear. GET OFF YOUR PHONE and have some manners and then we can proceed. I don't understand cell phone sign language (we all know what that is!) I just think cell phone usage in public should be condemned and instead of being passive aggressive adults SPEAK UP! They have a right to be on their phone you have a right to ask them to SHUT UP!!!


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If a restaurant's manager/owner wants to curtail cell use, it should be posted at the entrance, on the menu, and on advertisements.

Just had a snooty woman tell us that cell phone use was banned by law in the finer restaurants in NM,(probably she was some uppity out of state visitor), there is no such law as far as I know. My wife got a call from her 83 year old mother -- she didn't talk loud and kept the conversation short. Oh, the restaurant was nice, but I wouldn't call it "finer".

Advice given here has been good, if there is time, then go elsewhere to complete call, if not, do it in a normal tone, not shouting.


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Here is an online poll: Do you think it is ok to use a cell phone in a restaurant? Link:

When I get a call I step out, but my wife has no problem with gabbing at the table at all. I think it may depend what kind of restaurant.


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