Manners & Misdemeanors

Why the Staff at Fancy Restaurants Wish You Would Put Your Phone Away

Yes, they're judging you for spending your whole date scrolling Instagram.

John Winterman, a managing partner at the restaurant Bâtard in New York City, recently posted a message on Facebook bemoaning how he was "beginning to feel it may be his duty as a restaurateur to grab people by the scruff of their neck and introduce them to their dining companions when they have their face stuck in their phones at the table."

I called Winterman to learn more about the source of his frustration, and he shared that in the past month he has witnessed tables of two people, on multiple occasions, engaging more with their phones than with the person sitting across from them.

"In one case, they were actually celebrating an anniversary," Winterman said. "Maybe that's how they've lasted so long."

Beaumont Etiquette founder Myka Meier, who runs the Plaza Hotel's Finishing Program, says that with modern etiquette it is important to "match the formality of your phone etiquette with the restaurant at which you are dining." In other words, while texting might be fine at a coffee shop, it's best to keep phones out of sight for formal or semi-formal dining.

Winterman previously worked as maître d' at Daniel, the bastion of French fine dining on the Upper East Side, and noted one particularly memorable experience around the time that the first iPad was released.

One of Daniel's delightful quirks is the purse stools it provides diners, and in this instance one guest, who was seated with his family, had propped up his tablet on one of the stools to watch an NBA game at the table.

"I had to go tell the table that electronic devices used like that were prohibited in the dining room," Winterman said. He also had to tell another party that unfortunately they could not play music on their iPhone speaker throughout their meal at Daniel.


"Ultimately, it’s a distraction for other people," Winterman said. "I’ve always believed in the restaurant as being a miniature escape from day-to-day life."

"I’ve always believed in the restaurant as being a miniature escape from day-to-day life."

He pointed out that "it all comes down to basic manners" and "giving the other person you’re with their due respect," and that texting or checking your Instagram feed are, for him, in the same category as taking a phone call at the table—an offense that Meier and the Emily Post Institute agree is unacceptable.

The proper protocol if one's phone rings at the table, she says, is to "simply excuse yourself and step out of the restaurant." Having a phone conversation while sitting in the dining area is rude to not only the person sharing your table, but the rest of the restaurant's guests as well.

Another offense that can lead to checking your phone, even inadvertently? Leaving it on the table.

"Regardless of the formality of a restaurant, never put anything on the table that is not a part of the meal," Meier says. (The rule applies to sunglasses and wallets, too.)

One of Winterman's Facebook friends left a comment on his post that said, essentially, "people are going to be people and this is the new norm."

We're not sure it has to be.

*This story originally appeared on

*Minor edits have been made by the editors

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Sam Dangremond
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