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Frankie and Benny’s is first restaurant chain in UK to BAN mobile phones from their tables at family mealtimes

  • Frankie and Benny’s will take diners’ phones and keep them in a shoebox
  • Week-long ‘No Phone Zone’ campaign starts tomorrow and children eat for free
  • Comes as new poll finds 7 out of 10 children wish their parents would spend less time on the phone and more with them

A family restaurant is to trial a ban on mobile phones at the table, as a nationwide study found seven in ten children wish their parents would spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them.

The poll found one in ten children (eight per cent) have tried to hide a parent’s handset in a bid to get attention. Nearly twice that many (15 percent) said their parent’s phone ‘addiction’ made it seems their parents prefer to be on their phone than to talk their children.

So for the next week Frankie and Benny’s waiters and waitresses will ask diners to hand over their phone when they enter any one of the chain’s 250 restaurants – and for those who do, children will eat for free.

The business says the ‘No Phone Zone’ campaign is a bid to get the nation to embrace and celebrate family time.

Shoebox-sized receptacles will be provided for each table and staff will be ‘actively encouraged’ to get diners to participate.

The campaign starts tomorrow and will run until Friday December 7. Frankie and Benny’s will offer games including colouring kits for children and their parents to have fun together at the dinner table.

A spokesman said: ‘Our staff will be actively encouraging customers and families to take part in the initiative but of course, we can’t force them to hand over their phones.

‘If the initiative is a success we’ll certainly be looking at ways to activate it on a more permanent basis.’

During the promotion diners up to 14 years of age will be able to eat from the restaurant’s children’s menu free of charge, with paying parents, if the family surrender their mobile devices.

The campaign was inspired by a poll of 1500 children and parents, which found 56 per cent of British children said they would like to have more conversations with their parents.

According to the study the main time mobiles get in the way is during dinner times, when 46 per cent of kids would like to take the device away, followed by family movie or TV time (29 per cent) and holidays (24 per cent).

Parenting expert Susan Atkins said: ‘I am delighted to see Frankie & Benny’s are leading the way by banning screens at the table.

‘We live in a busy, fast paced 24/7 digitally connected world, unless we consciously plan not to be, so I love the idea of families sitting together, eating and chatting together away from screens.

‘Parents are role models in everything that they do and in everything that they say, so by managing their own screen time parents are teaching their kids by example about when and where technology use is appropriate.’

spokesperson for Frankie and Benny’s added: ‘We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we’ve found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time.’

The concerns are also shared by guilty parents. Seventy-seven per cent of the parents polled felt guilty about the amount of time they spend on the phone – and exactly two thirds (67 per cent) said their phone has come between them and their family.

Over a quarter (26 percent) check their phones during family mealtimes while 23 percent check while their child is talking about their day, and seven percent even admit to looking at their screen while driving their kids around.