What impact are mobile phones having on the dining experience?

Technology at the Table: A Digital Blonde Social Media Week Experiment

  1. A packed room with plenty of people looking at our research into Food, Emotions & Emojis
    A packed room with plenty of people looking at our research into Food, Emotions & Emojis
  2. Studies have shown that the mere presence of a mobile device during a social interaction, changes the nature of the conversation. The Digital Blonde experiment questioned whether the same might be true whilst dining? Does the phenomenon of photographing food and sharing online mean diners are missing out on some of the aromas, taste and overall enjoyment of a dish? Could removing technology from the table heighten the senses and enhance the dining experience? And if so, should restaurants impose rules on diners or insist they put their phones away to protect the dining experience? What does all this mean for how we market food and hospitality experiences?
  3. During Social Media Week, a Digital Blonde panel session featuring chefs and experts from the fields of psychology, food marketing and social media gathered to debate the findings.
  4. Speaking at our Food, Emotions &  Emojis event for #SMWldn to a packed room at the Lamb Tavern #SMWfoodpsych
    Speaking at our Food, Emotions & Emojis event for #SMWldn to a packed room at the Lamb Tavern #SMWfoodpsych
  5. A secret experiment was devised which saw 25 strangers, varied in ages, invited to attend a special four-course dinner in an unusual setting, a disused tube carriage. The unique surroundings, some special Social Media Week emoji props and the table setting meant guests immediately began sharing their experiences online. The first course came and diners photographed this too, the hashtag #SMWfoodpsych began filling twitter feeds and to everyone it seemed this was a successful Social Media Week meet-up.
  6. Who would have thought - we survived! #SMWFoodPsych #SMW #socialmediaweek
    Who would have thought - we survived! #SMWFoodPsych #SMW #socialmediaweek
  7. Even emojie cupcakes from @hummingbbakery #SMWFoodPsych #socialmediaweek #SMW
    Even emojie cupcakes from @hummingbbakery #SMWFoodPsych #socialmediaweek #SMW

  8. It was then that the experiment really began, to their complete surprise, guests were asked to place their phones in a box in the centre of the table for the rest of the evening. A team of researchers then documented how the dynamic and interaction changed when mobile phones were no longer part of the dining experience.
  9. The moment we were told to put our phones into a box in the middle of the table for an evening ... Including my apple watch #SMWFoodPsych #SMW #socialmediaweek #applewatch #TechingYouOut
    The moment we were told to put our phones into a box in the middle of the table for an evening ... Including my apple watch #SMWFoodPsych #SMW #socialmediaweek #applewatch #TechingYouOut
  10. So @sophiefunnell and I are participating in a social experiment tonight as part of #socialmediaweek ... Dinner on a tube ... Hosted by @DigitalBlondeKaren : #SMWFoodPsych
    So @sophiefunnell and I are participating in a social experiment tonight as part of #socialmediaweek ... Dinner on a tube ... Hosted by @DigitalBlondeKaren : #SMWFoodPsych
  11. One the panel was psychologist and CEO of Laughology, Stephanie Davies, who spoke about the emotional stress mobile devices can cause:

    “The presence of mobile phones, particularly when out on a table causes us a constant, low-level emotional stress. The numerous notifications and noises target the reward part of our brains and we’ll check our phones regularly in search of this. So it’s not surprising that people initially felt a high level of stress when asked to give up their phones during the dining experience. However as this low-level stress generated by the presence of a mobile device started to subside, it was fascinating to see that people begun to relax. It would have been interesting to have measured the heart rates of participants with and without their phones to really monitor the difference in stress levels.”
  12. With a clear link established between phone use and a less immersive dining experience, it raised the question of what restaurants can do to protect the dining experience and therefore the resulting word of mouth recommendations. Should phones be banned at the table or discouraged, to ensure guests get the best possible experience? Almost 70% of the Digital Blonde experiment participants felt that restaurants should not ban phones, however over 80% felt that people should put their phones away at the table.
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