NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Some restaurants are fed up with customers using their cellphones, so they're serving up phone-free dining options.
When Hearth first opened in New York City, chef owner Marco Canora envisioned a place where diners could not only enjoy a good meal, but they could also connect in conversation. But over the years, he noticed something very different happening.
"No one was communicating, and it was infuriating to me," he said. "
His solution was subtle but effective. Old boxes that say "open me" now sit on each table.
"Then there's another note here that says, 'We'd like to invite you to unplug during your meal at Hearth."
It was an easy sell for diner Chris Sampson and his friends, who all tried it for the first time.
"I love it, I really love it. I mean sometimes, if I go to a restaurant and cell service doesn't work, I'm secretly happy about that," he said.
At Sushi Lounge in New Jersey, customers are invited to do the same every Tuesday night.
Instead of a box, there's a champagne bucket, and diners enjoy a 20 percent discount if they make it through their meals.
"It's liberating in a lot of ways that you're not thinking about it, you're not worrying about it, you're just having a meal and talking to the people next to," patron Mark Jackson said.
Manager Stacy Oriente said most of the feedback has been positive.
"Really the only pushback that we've seen that people are afraid that they couldn't do it and didn't want to be called out because of it," she said.
Back at Hearth, not everyone participates and they don't have to.
"If you like the idea of putting your phone away and being present with the person you're having dinner, by all means, use the box that's on the table," said Canora.
Serving up a digital detox one meal at a time.
for more features.