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BizReport : Mobile Marketing : October 26, 2016

Mobile use in restaurants - tolerable or taboo?

A UK smartphone retailer urges restaurants to embrace the trend of mobile use in restaurants to increase customer engagement and, potentially, revenue. However, not everyone is keen and not every restaurant is a suitable environment.

by Helen Leggatt

Gordon Ramsey's restaurants have banned mobiles and others, such as Leamington Spa-based Japanese deli Auradaze, have made the news for doing the same. Such restaurants believe that the dining experience should be about conversation with fellow diners and not checking-in or snapping pictures of the food or selfies.

Earlier this year, restaurant booking service OpenTable surveyed consumers in the UK and found that 9 in 10 admit they find it rude when others use their mobile phones during a meal. More than three-quarters (83%) said they would welcome a 'no phone zone' in restaurants.

However, according to UK smartphone retailer,, 27% of people frequently or always use their mobile to take a photo of a meal at a restaurant, with 17% sharing the image on social media. This figure rises significantly during key calendar days, such as Valentine's.

Whipping out a mobile to check-in is also on the increase, found Among the top 10 established and emerging restaurant brands Nando's came out in front receiving 1,204 check-ins between May 2014 and April 2016, more than double Pizza Express in second place with 482.

The leading restaurant brands with the most check-ins are:

1. Nando's (1,204)
2. Pizza Express (482)
3. Frankie & Benny's (454)
4. Wagamama (366)
5. Pizza Hut (164)

"With mobile technology becoming such an important part of enjoying a meal out, it's crucial that restaurants are keeping up with the trend," says Andrew Cartledge, mobile expert at "People want to go to restaurants that are recognizable and where technology adds an interesting twist to an evening out. A few technology changes could allow restaurants to not only keep up with the latest social trends, but make their brand stand out in an extremely saturated market."

However, of note here is the type of restaurant in which check-ins, and probably mobile use, was found to be most prevalent. They are all casual dining restaurants. Research by OpenTable in the U.S. found that people were more likely to use their mobile in a casual dining environment than in a fine dining restaurant. This makes sense, and it could argued that it is far more tolerable to be around people photographing their pizzas than their partridge on parsnip puree.

Restaurateurs must weigh up the risk of alienating or engaging customers, and whether their establishment was an appropriate place for mobile technology to be implemented.

Tags: food and drink, mobile, restaurants, social media, trends

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