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Free meals for kids if they put phones away

Frankie and Benny’s, a UK-based restaurant chain, wants families to have quality time together when dining out in its restaurants, so they decided to give parents a break.  If they put down their phone during dinner, their kids eat free.

NBC‘s Today reports the New York-style Italian chain which operates more than 250 restaurants throughout the country, surveyed 1,500 people to see how the use of mobile phones affected parent-child behavior while eating. The results of the survey revealed almost 72 percent of the children aged 6 to 16 said that they felt their parents wanted to be on their phones during a meal rather than interact with them.

More than 25 percent of the parents admitted to the survey that they checked their cell phones while eating with their children often times while the child was talking. Ten percent of the children admitted they tried to hide their parent’s phone so they could have their complete attention.

In the ever-present battle of screen time vs. family time, Frankie and Benny’s decided to run a ‘no-phone zone” promotion during the first week of December.  Parents simply give up their phones to restaurant employees, who keep them in a special box while the family enjoys its meal. In return, the kids eat free.

“Children spell love T-I-M-E and by putting away screens parents are sending the message that their children are important to them and that can only be good for family time,” parenting expert Susan Atkins said a press release from the restaurant. “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.”

Although Frankie and Benny’s is the first restaurant chain to give away free food in exchange for mobile phones, phone bans in restaurants in the US are nothing new.

Last year in New York City, restaurant owner and chef Marco Canora got tired of diners disconnecting from one another at his eating establishment known as Hearth. So he placed boxes at each table with a note that read: “Open Me,” which included an invitation to “unplug” during dinner.

And the silencing of the phones is not limited to fancy eating establishments. In 2016, Chick-fil-A asked its customers to place their phones in “coops” to enjoy their crispy chicken and each other without the ever-present technology.