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Is It a Good Business Strategy to Offer Phone-Free Discount?

A restaurant is offering 5% discount to customers who leave their cellphones at the door during the meal. The restaurant owner wants his customers to enjoy the dining experience and food without getting distracted by their cellphones, according to this Fox News video. Is this phone-free strategy well received and working?

It works very well for this restaurant. Over 50% patrons have chosen discount over cellphones. Moreover, it gave the restaurant about three minute free media exposure on Fox News, with additional conversations on social media.

Honestly, this is not the first time I heard of such incident. There are resort hotels encouraging guests to lock up their cellphones during their stay because they want their guests to truly enjoy the beauty of nature.

Will this phone-free advocate become a trend? More importantly, is it a good idea for business to promote a phone-free policy?

In my opinions, unless you are the first one who initiates a phone-free policy and gets some free media exposure, it is probably not a good idea to discourage cellphone usage. Furthermore, I argue that business should do the opposite by encouraging customers to use mobile devices, including cellphones. My reason is simple. We are now living in the “SoLoMo” world, where everything goes “Social, Local, and Mobile.” Business must embrace the SoLoMo movement. If mobile devices are prohibited, how can customers capture their wonderful experience and then immediately share it on the internet? It seems to me that many customers only use mobile devices for pictures and videos these days. Many customers also want to share updates as soon as they capture a memorable moment. We cannot expect this group of customers to write long reviews and edit/upload their pictures/videos after the experience is over, can we?   

What are your thoughts? Should companies promote SoLoMo or phone-free policy?

Relevant discussions:

The picture was downloaded from


  1. Sydney Karp NSD 314-M001August 29, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    I think that a phone free policy in restaurants with the incentive of a discount on a meal can be a good idea with some crowds, however may be a cause of controversy for a majority of the population. Although a dining experience is supposed to be carefree, enjoyable, and an outgoing environment, it is also a place where customers do not want to be told what to do. Rules are not supposed to apply in public places, for eating can be a time where one gets away, as they may be on lunch break or taking a few minutes away from the kids. Though a phone free dining experience would be ideal, I personally do not feel as it would be a success in today's society where so many people rely on constant communication. We wouldn't want restaurants to start losing business just because customers cannot utilize their means of communication via technology while eating.

    1. I hear two voices --- one supports the phone-free policy, the other thinks the opposite. It is interesting to see how different our customers can be. Giving customers options and allowing them to make the decision are important these days. Think deeper, even a small change in policy could affect operations and staffing, couldn't it? If you are the owner of the restaurant, how may this phone-free policy impact your operations?

  2. Hey Professor Kwok,
    I think that this is a great idea for restaurants to start doing because i feel that cell phones have such a huge impact on the environment of the restaurant. By giving a discount to the people that dont use their cell phones in the restaurant, i feel that overall the customers will be able to get a different feel and meaning of what the restaurants are trying to purvey to their customers. One last reason i think that this is a good idea is that i have been to many restaurants and it is always so interrupting to the other people in the restaurant when people are talking on the phone or they are texting at the table.
    Drew Ernst
    HPM 314 class

  3. I think that encouraging a cell phone free restaurant is a great idea. I think that today so many people rely on technology for anything and everything and forget to enjoy their lives with the real people and conversations around them instead of via internet, email, text, ect. With offering that discount in the restaurant and in certain resorts it promotes the full experience for the guests. The customers and guests are then able to enjoy one anothers company and not be checking their twitter, facebook, linkedIn and any other social media sites they are involved in. As much as our world has become dependent on technology it is vital for people to step back from it every now and then and realize how cell phones aren't as imperative as they think.

  4. I believe that for a restaurant to promote a phone free environment could be very good for this restaurant. For certain groups of people this is an appropriate option. For business dinners or other dinners that you would not have your phone out this allows a great incentive. However if I were out to dinner by myself or with my siblings having my phone is how I pass my time. Yes i take in the surroundings but if I want to share my meal or make plans for after i like to have my phone with me. As for locking my phone up at a resort I dont agree with that decision. I am one who likes to communicate with my friends. When I am disconnected from the world i am less relaxed than otherwise. I am also one who has experienced moments of emergency and always have my phone with me in case something does occur.

  5. I think this is an interesting idea for a promotion because while it encourages people to get off their cell phone and live their life and experience things like nature and actual social interaction, it can also make for some awkward occurrences. If you "encourage" someone to leave their cell phone at the door and they don't while other people did, they may feel awkward or strange in that setting. It could make some people feel guilty for using their cell phone and then the restaurant or hotel or any place could lose the business of that person all together. I for one am an avid cell phone user and I am constantly checking social media and keeping up with news around the world so I'm not sure how I would feel about a venue that suggested this to me. I think in certain places it could be a good idea like the idea of enjoying the beauty of nature, that is definitely a setting that could call for no cell phone use. I know a lot of people like to use their cell phones in restaurants though, to help pass the time while waiting for food or just to be connected.

  6. I think having a phone free dining experience is a great idea. Many people today do not know how to communicate with each other or enjoy one another’s company because they are too busy on their cell phones. Being in a public place on your cell phone is a distraction to other people; especially those that are trying to enjoy a meal. By having the offer of a phone free dining experience, customers and waiters will not be distracted by those yelling on their phones. I think the 5% off incentive is also a great way to promote this. Not only do you get to enjoy a meal but having a discount is always a nice reward.

  7. I think for some restaurants a cell phone free environment is a good idea. It really does make someone try to enjoy their experience with their phone not going off and feeling that they need to check it every few minutes at the table. Sometimes cell phones are distractions to others, that’s why most country clubs do not allow them when people are dining. I think for some people it may be hard to have a meal and leave your phone because a lot of people are glued to their cell phones and checking them every so often. I no that when I am sitting in a restaurant even if my phone doesn’t go off, I’m constantly on it. It may be good to give a discount as more an incentive to not have it with you.

    As for business I would agree with you and encourage people to be on them. Lets be honest that is how many of us comminute today, even thought it may not be through text it may be through email or social media that is an app on your phone. If someone’s job revolves around posting tweets, you will want to always be on your phone. Since a lot of smart phones now have internet, Facebook, twitter on them it is hard not to use them.


  8. Hi Professor Kwok,
    I believe that the phone free policy in restaurants with the incentive of a discount is a great idea because people will enjoy their meals better when they do not have their phone on them. One problem is that it takes money away from the restaurant. Although it is only 5%, it will add up after some time. Another positive is that many people believe that it is rude to have your phone out during dinnertime so this will eliminate this problem. In addition it is respectful to others in the restaurant who don’t want to hear you phone conversations and ringtones. Although this seems like a good idea, I do not believe that restaurants will use the phone free dining experience.


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