Is Texting at the Dinner Table the New Norm?

It’s Saturday night at a five-star Beverly Hills restaurant. The joint is rocking, corks are popping and I see diners texting like there’s no tomorrow. Since when has texting become an acceptable part of fine dining?

In our fast-changing digital world, texting at the table, generally considered ill mannered, is becoming the norm. And it seems that restaurants are finding ways to deal with customers’ compulsion to text.

Not long after we sat down to dine that Saturday night, I noticed two of my eating companions discreetly reach for their phones to read or send texts. My husband’s friend had a text from the babysitter; I’m not sure why the other friend was on his phone. Eventually, that made me feel like it was OK to sneak a peak at my phone, even though I had no dire need.

Our friend, it turned out, was “checking in” on Facebook. That’s the Facebook application that lets you share where you are at any given moment and highlights the name of the establishment you’re visiting. Our waiter seemed accustomed to having to wait to get diners’ attention, standing patiently until everyone put down their phones before he told us about the next course.

In a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Garbus, general manager of new hot spot M.B. Post in Manhattan Beach, CA, said “checking in” is a win-win for his restaurant and his customers. Garbus said many of his customers are his Facebook friends. He likes to check Facebook and see which of his customer/friends are checked in to M.B. Post so he can greet them.

Such a welcoming attitude still isn’t the norm at all top L.A. spots. Patina in L.A. posts a message on its menu requesting diners turn off their cell phones while eating.

But if Garbus’ attitude seems to be the ultimate in new phone-friendly restaurant etiquette, get this: L.A. restaurant Il Covo, according to the Times story, has begun to offer diners small plates to hold their phones in order to shield them from spills. Before you know it, we’ll be texting the kitchen to order dessert.

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