50 Percent off Your Restaurant bill if you Handover Your Phone First

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Good food and good conversation go hand in hand.

But cell phones can interrupt the natural flow of conversation with their incessant beeping, vibrating and brightly lit screens.

We are often so concerned about missing something in our digital world that we fail to engage with the real people in front of us.

So restaurateur Jawdat Ibrahim is offering a financial incentive in exchange for a phone amnesty.

If you give up your mobile phone whilst visiting his dining room, he will give you 50% off your bill.

Abu Ghosh is a well-known restaurant named after its hometown, an Arab village located about 10 kilometres (six miles) outside of Jerusalem.

Ibrahim says smartphones have destroyed the modern dining experience.

He hopes the generous discount will bring back a more innocent time when going to a restaurant was about companionship, conversation and appreciating the food, rather than surfing, texting or talking to the office.

"I've seen a family come to this restaurant to eat and they have no time to enjoy the food because they're busy talking on cellular and laptop and whatever, and so I decided to give them 50 percent, up to 50 percent discount in order just to leave that cellular on the side and just to eat and enjoy the food and enjoy the place," says Ibrahim.

The restaurant's platters of creamy hummus and grilled meats are popular with Arab and Jewish visitors alike.

Ibrahim is in a better position than most to offer steep discounts. While living in the U.S. in the 1980s, he won some $23 million in an Illinois state lottery.

Ibrahim is not the first restaurateur to take aim at this trend. Eateries around the world have begun to offer discounts _ generally far lower than Ibrahim's _ to diners who turn off their phones. Some have even banned cellphone use altogether.

By offering half off the bill, Ibrahim appears to have taken the art of the discount to a whole new level. He admitted that he is taking a financial hit in the short term. But he believes in the long run, the move will pay off by attracting new customers and visitors to his village.

Diner Udi Shaham says he thinks it is a good idea.

"I think people inside themselves they want their freedom , their freedom from their phone and I think that people will like this idea."

Hagit Netzer, a tourist from northern Israel, decided to stop by the restaurant Wednesday after spending the day in nearby Jerusalem.

"I don't think it's really that hard for a person to disconnect from his phone for half an hour and shut it off. We turn off our phones for more long-term periods, so a restaurant is nothing. In my opinion, I came here only because it's half price, and I like this style of restaurant, I liked the food, everything was nice, and I will really enjoying paying half price," she says .

As she received her bill, the original price, 158 shekels, or roughly $45, was scribbled out. Scribbled next to it was the sum of 79 shekels (roughly $27.50).

A Zagat survey last year found most respondents disapproved of texting, tweeting and emailing when eating out, though a majority accepted picture taking.

According to the 2012 State of Mobile Etiquette Survey for Intel Corp., about one in five U.S. adults say they share online when eating a meal with others, and more than a third of teens do the same.

At Jerusalem's Miznon restaurant, patrons were using their phones at the table, despite being surrounded by company.

The Miznon even has a station where diners can charge their phones.

Hila Yosef, a manager at the Miznon, says people should have the discretion whether to use their phones in restaurants.

"I personally would not adopt this idea. I think people who come to a restaurant or to any other place to go out they really need to decide whether they want to shut it off, or on silent, or vibrate, and they will make their own decision if they want it or not," she says .

Ibrahim says virtually every customer who has entered the restaurant since he began the promotion this week has taken advantage of the offer.

"Technology is very good. But just when you eat, just when you are with your family and your friends, you can just wait for half an hour and enjoy the food and enjoy the company," he says . "A lot of people, they sit down and they don't enjoy their food, their company."

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