Dig­i­tal din­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEB -

NOW that we’re ac­cus­tomed to check­ing- in at the lo­cal cafe, we might have to stow our phones at the door.

Due to our hy­per- con­nec­tiv­ity on so­cial me­dia, dis­creetly check­ing- in when we sit down to dine has be­come sec­ond- na­ture.

Phones are good for busi­ness as we con­nect, pro­mote and rec­om­mend through so­cial net­works. We like to tell peo­ple where we’ve been, what’s good and what to avoid.

Many venues en­cour­age pa­trons to check- in on Foursquare and Face­book, tag friends and claim re­wards like dis­counts and free­bies.

The ‘‘ food pa­parazzi’’ of In­sta­gram snap pho­tos of their well- plated dishes and up­load them on the spot. In­sta­gram­ming din­ner is a time- con­sum­ing hobby so well prac­tised, it’s turn­ing into an art.

On­line live- re­view­ing on sites such as Twit­ter, Yelp and Chowhound are taken as rec­om­men­da­tions or warn­ings by other would- be pa­trons.

Restau­rants aim­ing to ap­peal to a younger crowd even of­fer iPad menus, QR codes, and other dig­i­tal trap­pings into their menus.

But while restau­rants, cafes, clubs and re­tail stores have been en­cour­ag­ing dig­i­tal din­ing, there is a grow­ing trend away from the tech- en­abled din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Los Angeles restau­rants are lead­ing the way back to a sim­pler era, in­tro­duc­ing 5 and 10 per cent dis­counts for turn­ing in your mo­bile phone be­fore you sit down.

LA’s Eva Res­tau­rant has been all over the in­ter­na­tional press for of­fer­ing pa­trons a dis­count for hand­ing staff their dig­i­tal de­vices be­fore be­ing seated.

Owner and chef Mark Gold told the LA Times he hoped pa­trons would fo­cus on their food and each other, not their phones.

‘‘ For us, it’s re­ally not about peo­ple dis­rupt­ing guests,’’ he said.

‘‘ Eva is home and we want to cre­ate that en­vi­ron­ment of home, and we want peo­ple to con­nect again.

‘‘ It’s about two peo­ple sit­ting to­gether and just con­nect­ing, with­out the dis­trac­tion of a phone, and we’re try­ing to cre­ate an am­bi­ence where you come in and re­ally en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and the food and the com­pany.’’

If us­ing phones is an in­trin­sic part of mod­ern cul­ture, why would we be dis­cour­aged? Well, be­cause so­cial net­work­ing is a bit anti- so­cial in real life.

Look­ing around a crowded res­tau­rant and see­ing in­su­lar peo­ple en­grossed in their glow­ing screens isn’t the kind of at­mos­phere many venues want to evoke.

Phone eti­quette is sim­ply re­spect­ing the com­pany you keep, but it’s easy to be com­pla­cent when we’re all so ob­sessed with multi- task­ing.

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