On my last trip to Germany, I sat at a crowded café and marveled that all of the patrons were eating, drinking and interacting with each other. I saw not a single smartphone. Contrast that with America, or at least New York, where you can walk into any restaurant and see scores of people sitting across from each other and individually fiddling with their phones.
Award-winning chef Marco Canora hopes to gently persuade diners to do otherwise at his East Village restaurant, Hearth. On each table in the restaurant, you'll find a different vintage box:
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Some are old jewelry boxes, others are cigar boxes, and all have a note on them saying "Open me!" Should curious diners do so, inside is another note saying
We'd like to invite you to unplug during your meal here at Hearth. Feel free to use this box, put your phone away, and connect with your fellow diners.
"If you want to do it you can do it, if you don't want to do it, don't," Canora told Eater, explaining why he's opted for passive boxes versus the active phone bans some restaurants have instituted. "It's just a box on the table that's there if you want it."
Canora reports that 6 out of 10 patrons place their phones in the boxes. "I think people are digging it," he says.
It would be nice if this turned into a trend, and if some woodworking box maker capitalized on it and started cranking out custom boxes for restaurants.