Fastfood chain asks diners to put away phones during meals

McDonald's Singapore has set up a mobile phone locker at its Marine Cove outlet at East Coast Park, so customers can stow away their devices during mealtime.
McDonald's Singapore has set up a mobile phone locker at its Marine Cove outlet at East Coast Park, so customers can stow away their devices during mealtime.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
McDonald's Singapore has set up a mobile phone locker at its Marine Cove outlet at East Coast Park, so customers can stow away their devices during mealtime.
McDonald's Singapore has set up a mobile phone locker at its Marine Cove outlet at East Coast Park, so customers can stow away their devices during mealtime.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
The "Phone Off, Fun On" initiative, a first for the restaurant, is aimed at promoting family bonding, said McDonald's, which also conducted a survey with over 300 parents on the prevalence of mobile device use during meal time.
The "Phone Off, Fun On" initiative, a first for the restaurant, is aimed at promoting family bonding, said McDonald's, which also conducted a survey with over 300 parents on the prevalence of mobile device use during meal time.PHOTO: MCDONALD’S SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Many people often lament how family members are more interested in their mobile devices than having a conversation with one another at the dining table.

But one fastfood chain is asking customers to put their gadgets aside, a move that echoes past efforts elsewhere.

McDonald's Singapore launched an initiative to get diners to set their mobile phones aside, so they spent more time interacting with each other at the table.

To do this, the fast food firm said on Monday (Oct 16) that it has set up a mobile phone locker at its Marine Cove outlet at East Coast Park, so customers can stow away their devices during mealtime.

The "Phone Off, Fun On" initiative, a first for the restaurant, is aimed at promoting family bonding, said McDonald's, which also conducted a survey with over 300 parents on the prevalence of mobile device use during meal time.

"Based on our findings, we believe these new initiatives in our restaurants will nudge families towards rediscovering quality time together," said McDonald's Singapore's director for brand communications and customer care Linda Ming.

In the poll conducted in September, 60 per cent of the parents agreed that the use of mobile devices during family time has reduced their interaction with their loved ones.

Also, 58 per cent of parents said they feel unhappy when another family member uses a mobile device during family time.

Three-quarters, or 75 per cent, of the parents said they were willing to have better self-discipline in staying away from their mobile devices during family time.

More than two-thirds, or 69 per cent, of these parents and most kids (72 per cent) have a habit of using their smartphones during meal time.

McDonald's Singapore said it is also piloting table service at the Marine Cove branch. Customers can opt for this when they place an order at the self-ordering kiosk. The trial is aimed at giving parents more time to tend to their children, the company said.

Asking diners to put aside their mobile devices has been done in the past.

In 2014, four Nanyang Technological University final-year students launched a campaign involving 13 eateries called Put It On Friend Mode.

Under it, diners would pledge online to have a phone-free meal on a given day and receive a perk - such as a discount off the food bill, or one-for-one drinks - at the eatery.

The Manhattan Fish Market also had a programme called Unbox, which asked diners to put their phones into a box. If the box remained unopened at the end of the meal, each diner would receive a $5 dining voucher.