How Cell Phones Can Both Help And Hurt The Group Dining Experience

Smart phones have revolutionized the way that people socialize. As a result, cell phones have also changed the dynamics of the group dining experience. Depending on how they are used, cell phones can make or break a group dinner. Here are some negative and positive ways that cell phones contribute to the group dining experience at a place like Sabatino's Italian Restaurant.

Competing with Cell Phones

At least two-thirds of Americans have smart phones, and this rate is expected to rise. Even though smart phones are playing an ever-increasing role in the lives of Americans, they are not always welcome guests at group dinner parties.

Dinner parties are usually intended to be social events. Diners that spend more time on their phones than in active communication with their in-the-flesh peers can come off as rude. Unfortunately, asking people to leave their cell phones behind or asking fellow diners to place their phones in a bucket away from the table comes across as domineering and even unreasonable. After all, some people have legitimate reasons why they need to be close to their smart phones, like keeping in touch with a sick child. 

When it is obvious that a diner is spending an unreasonable, inexplicable amount of time on a smart phone, other diners can bring up the issue with the offending smart phone user in a light-hearted way. The offending smart phone user may be simply unaware of how rude this behavior is, so gently bringing up the issue can result in success. Sometimes, a direct approach works, too--a diner can ask why the offender is spending so much time on the phone, and if it is important, reassure the offender that they can attend to an urgent issue if need be. In most situations, the attention paid to the smart phone is not urgent, but because the inquirer asked in a non-accusatory manner, the offender will likely cease the cell phone activity.

Enhancing the Group Dining Experience

Cell phones are not always the bane of the group dining experience; as a matter of fact, they can actually enhance a group dinner.

Games and Icebreaking

Cell phone apps offer a wide variety of fun activities, many of which can turn a simple supper into a memorable evening. For group dinners that bring together people that do not know each other very well, apps provide "icebreaking" activities that ask questions, provide theoretical scenarios, and bond participants. Other apps offer fun activities based on existing party games, like "would you rather" and "truth or dare."

Paying the Bill

Quite possibly the most uncomfortable situation that could arise in a group dining situation is the issue of splitting the bill. Unless previously discussed, a diner might wonder if the table as a whole plans to split the entire bill evenly among all diners, or if diners are responsible for their personal tabs.

There are several great cell phone apps that can help patrons determine how to objectively pay. These apps can tally an individual's dinner cost, itemize the check, and factor in the tip. Some apps even let dining guests pay the restaurant directly from a cell phone, provided that the restaurant also uses the app.