Frankie And Benny's Bans Phones At Family Meals – What Are We Going To Do Without Instagram?

Cause for parental panic or a blessed relief?

If you’re one of the millions of parents who worry you use your phone too much, you might have an unlikely saviour in the form of high street Italian, Frankie and Benny’s.

The chain restaurant, which has over 250 branches in the UK, is introducing a ban on mobile phones for dining families. From this Thursday until 7 December, “No Phone Zones” will be placed on tables – essentially a strongbox that locks in everyone’s handsets while they eat (smartwatch users can probably cheat the system, but that probably isn’t in the spirit of things).

And as an added incentive, kids of participating families will eat for free.

The dining table has always been the focal point of family conversations, where even the busiest of families ideally spends a bit of time engaging with each other over food. Even the most trivial of chats – “What did you do at school today, darling?” - “I can’t remember” – counts for something and lets everyone feel cared about and listened to.

Roger Utting Photography via Getty Images

This new scheme comes after research found nearly three-quarters of UK children wished their parents spent less time on their phones. One-eighth of surveyed kids, sadly, believed their parents preferred being on their phones than talking to them.

That’s fairly heartbreaking, but understandable. Between workplaces expecting constant access to their employees, our collective sense of FOMO, and the fact that smartphones are simply so dang addictive, it’s easy to get to the end of a day and realise your handset has barely left your mitts.

Three-quarters of parents polled said they felt guilty about spending too much time on their phones, and almost as many (70 per cent) said they worried they might be addicted.

It’s an interesting approach, locking phones away entirely. Prohibition hasn’t exactly been successful, historically speaking. but maybe this halfway house of enforced etiquette is the way forward.

Comedy shows and concerts have already started locking away audience members’ phones in Yondr pouches to avoid material ending up on the internet. But this is the first endeavour to take handsets away from customers in the name of family unity.

Frankie and Benny’s might suddenly become a hotbed of wholesome Waltons-style chats as phoneless parents reconnect with their children.

Or it might just be filled with tables of moody people muttering anxiously to themselves about all the alerts they are missing and wolfing their dessert down as quickly as they can, so they can get back on Instagram to post a picture of their ... oh wait, that’s not going to work ... tiramisu.