Mums Need Their Mobiles – The Frankie & Benny's Phone Ban Misses The Mark

For working parents like me, phones make family time possible
The restaurant chain are asking parents to give up their phones when dining
MoMo Productions via Getty Images
The restaurant chain are asking parents to give up their phones when dining

Yesterday I received a sanctimonious press release from fast food chain Frankie & Benny’s, bribing me to entrust them with my £600 phone so my kids could consume an artery-clogging meal free of charge.

No thank you.

In what was possibly the most patronising email of the year, I was told: “In a bid to get the nation to embrace and celebrate family time, customers heading to Frankie & Benny’s in December will be asked to hand their devices over at family meal times”.

At what point did a fast food chain – one who just this week were exposed for putting their own customers’ lives at risk in a Watchdog investigation – decide they were justified in preaching to parents like some sort of 1984 nanny state demigods?

“Hand over your phone,” they said, before bombarding us with stats on how children feel abandoned and betrayed by parental use of mobile phones. “Heartbreakingly, 8% of British children have tried to hide their parent’s handset in a desperate bid to get their attention”.

Whilst this is heartbreaking, I doubt very much it’s because Mum was checking her emails while her children filled their faces with donuts and cream.

I’m self-employed. I chose this path so that whatever the job in hand, I can always walk my kids to school. When I was growing up, my mum – a single parent working full time – was able to drop me at school once a term, as a treat. Maybe twice if my birthday fell on the right day. Having a mobile phone means I can start work after I’ve seen them through the school gates. It gives my kids something I never had.

If I get a work call during this time I can quickly answer it without putting my child’s life, or mental health, at risk. My phone gives me the freedom to be a working mother.

Being a one-woman, self-employed outfit, means my work emails are on my personal phone. I can’t afford luxuries like an extra phone, or an assistant to take calls while I’m otherwise engaged. I finish my work in time to pick up my kids at least three days a week, something I feel is hugely important for their emotional wellbeing and security as children (please see above), but I then continue my job from 8pm until midnight to complete my working day.

If we stop off for a bite to eat after a day at the park, or on a journey home, that certainly won’t be Frankie & Benny’s anymore. And if you see me at a restaurant with my kids, furiously tapping away at my phone, I’m not checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush. I’m replying to a work email and trying to save myself the headache of a 1am finish. I have work responsibilities, but the fact I can deal with minor problems on my phone then and there, or at least acknowledge larger scale issues to be dealt with later, means I keep my clients, fulfil my commitments, and therefore earn enough money to be able to treat my kids to aforementioned meals. See where I’m going with this?

And while we’re at it – oh holier-than-thou directors at a fast food chain – I have a family outside my kids too. If my mum falls through the bathroom floor straight onto the kitchen tiles and breaks her back (yes, this actually happened) I want the ambulance crew to be able to contact me. Ditto if my house is on fire, or a friend is in crisis.

As demonstrated by this week’s Watchdog investigation – Frankie & Benny’s staff cannot be trusted to tell someone who is (potentially fatally) allergic to celery whether their meal has celery in – something that could cost them their life. Why the hell should I trust them with my property?

Finally, have you ever tried to have a relaxing family meal with a hyperactive three-year-old at the table? My phone has Gruffalo Snap, Peppa bloody Pig painting, and a library of Disney cartoons. These distractions are wholeheartedly welcomed, they mean I can wolf down more than three mouthfuls of the microwaved spaghetti and meatballs you’re charging me £13 a bowl for, without being climbed over.

How about this – parents ban kids from eating at patronising pizza chains, and spend their money elsewhere from now on.