Restaurant offers 50 percent discount for turning off phone

A restaurant owner in Israel has had enough of cell phone chatter and mute couples staring into their phones during dinner. So he's offering an incentive.

The sublime tomatoes at Aziza restaurant in San Francisco. I felt guilty taking this picture. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Look your lover in the face. Tell him or her why they're the best, most gorgeous, most intelligent, inspiring person you've ever met.

Then dig into your mackerel or your malloreddus.

That's how a romantic meal should go. Instead, these days, the obligatory phones lie on the table like needy puppies. Within moments, the lovers' eyes are buried in them, as if this were a table for one.

One restaurateur in Israel has decided that, rather than ban cell phones, he will offer an incentive so great that it makes your average Black Friday bargain seem like robbery.

Jawdat Ibrahim, owner of the Abu Ghosh restaurant in an Arab village outside Jerusalem, is offering a 50 percent discount if everyone at the table turns off his or her cell phone.

As the Associated Press hears it, Ibrahim got tired of the married or the loving sitting in silence. Why, sometimes they were so grossly engrossed that they didn't even eat. They asked him to reheat their food.

What has happened to our world when we prefer to Snapchat rather than sample perfectly cooked snap peas?

Ibrahim explained his feelings to the AP: "Technology is very good. But just when you eat, just especially when you are with your family and your friends, you can just wait for half an hour and enjoy the food and enjoy the company."

Of course you can't. You have to Instagram and tweet a picture of your starter. You have to check in on Foursquare. You have to post "Date night with Kasi The Office Librarian!" to Facebook.

And shame on you if you forget to inform your Google+ followers.

What's remarkable is Ibrahim's apparent generosity. A 50 percent discount suggests an assault on his margins -- which, in most restaurants, are markedly thin.

Last year, LA restaurant Eva offered its customers a 5 percent incentive to leave their cell phones at the door.

Recently, another LA restaurant, Bucato, banned cell phones in order to prevent what it called "Gastro ADD."

Some New York restaurants, such as those owned by famed chef David Chang, ban the use of phones to take food porn. San Francisco's sublime La Ciccia is another that discourages phone use, albeit politely.

Ibrahim says he tried to encourage customers to leave their phones at the door, but this proved too complex.

His plaintive generosity has caused, he said, almost every customer to take him up on his offer. It's also brought in some new customers.

Perhaps the discount, then, is merely excellent publicity.

It's sad, though, that people have to be bribed to do something that their souls might tell them is the human thing to do.

But we began to sell our souls to technology a few years ago. In fact, we gave technology 50 percent of our selves just to take our souls away.

 

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