Smartphone use can stop diners fully appreciating meals, says new study

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Kate Fewell: mobile phones have become central part of the eating out experience
Kate Fewell: mobile phones have become central part of the eating out experience
Using smartphones at the table can desensitise diners and stop them from fully appreciating food when eating out, according to new research by Digital Blonde.

Participants in Digital Blonde's study were invited to attend a four course dinner in a disused tube carriage with ‘special emoji props’ designed to encourage them to share their experiences on social media.

But shortly after the diners began to share online they were asked to relinquish their phones, which led to varied reactions including anxiety and anger.

Stress

Psychologist Stephanie Davies said: “The presence of mobile phones, particularly when out on a table causes us a constant, low-level emotional stress. The numerous notifications and noises target the reward part of our brains and we’ll check our phones regularly in search of this.

“So it’s not surprising that people initially felt a high level of stress when asked to give up their phones during the dining experience.”

Psychologist:
People initially felt a high level of stress when asked to give up their phones during the dining experience 

After giving up their phones, researchers noticed guests talking more about the food and its flavours; with some saying they would not have normally appreciated it this way.

Davies added: “As this low-level stress generated by the presence of a mobile device started to subside, it was fascinating to see that people began to relax.”

Banned

Roughly 70% of those who participated in the experiment said they felt phones should not be banned in food establishments but 80% said people should put their phones away at the table.

Kate Fewell, of Digital Blonde, said: “Without many of us realising it, mobile phones have become a central part of the eating out experience, whether as a conversational aid, a connection to the rest of the world, or as a way to share the occasion with others.

“Whilst all of these can be seen as positives, I truly believe that the best moments in life happen around a table when we are eating and drinking with the people we love.”

Engaged

100% of participants said conversation had flowed better without the presence of phones, with a majority claiming they felt more engaged and connected that they would have with their phones present.

Some said they noticed a lack of pauses and interruptions that would otherwise have accommodated social media and phone use.

Fewell added: “Social media can be great for spreading awareness and interacting with customers, but if it’s desensitising and decreasing a guests overall enjoyment, somehow, a balance needs to be struck.”

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