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Table text: Diners can’t do without their smartphones

Restaurants (mostly) tapping into the spirit

Los Angeles Times

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 11:02

smart phone

Photo by Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Customers text on their cell phones while dining at M.B. Post restaurant in Manhattan Beach, California, January 20, 1012. Jerry Garbus, general manager of M.B. Post, says cell phones can provide a useful way of connecting with others while dining.

"If it's good, they're completely focused on the other person," he says. "But when someone gets up to go to the bathroom, the phone comes out and they get their fix."

Using your phone here and there at the bar is one thing, but actually placing it on a coaster for the duration is another.

"It's the equivalent of a kid being told to put their video game controller down and go outside," Brooke says. "If a customer is focusing on it too much, I'll say something like, ‘Is the Internet still working?' Just a gentle suggestion. If liquor is involved, you never want to be direct."

Plus, if a diner is constantly submerged in his or her phone, it's difficult to provide good service, which by its very definition must be interactive, says Paige Reilly, the manager of the beer program at Echo Park's Mohawk Bend and Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, Calif. She relates a story about two men she once saw who did not talk to each other at dinner more than once but constantly showed each other text messages that they were sending to other people.

"I think by the time it was over, I was laughing out loud," she says.

Cellphones aren't always a distraction, though, says Jerry Garbus, general manager of M.B. Post in Manhattan Beach, Calif. They can also provide a useful way of connecting with others while dining.

"The cellphone in our dining room is a seamless thing," Garbus says. "We've had guests literally reading a review on Yelp and ordering what was in the review during service."

Diners at M.B. Post also regularly check in at the restaurant on Facebook via their phones (the restaurant has nearly 1,500 Facebook check-ins).

"It creates a unique and fun environment. I'm friends with many of our guests, and when someone checks in I can see it on my phone and go and say hello," Garbus says.

M.B. Post's chef, David LeFevre, also keeps an active Twitter feed on which he regularly posts pictures of food.

"He tweeted this photo of him holding a sheet tray of bacon as it came out of the oven and posted a photo of our sticky buns on Facebook, and it just blew up and everybody left comments and wanted to be a part of it," Garbus says.

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(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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