Most Effective Cell Phone Policies For Restaurants

Most Effective Cell Phone Policies For Restaurants

Smartphones are a modern marvel. A computer in your pocket that’s constantly connected. Everything at your fingertips — just don’t let it become a distraction at work!

If smartphone use has gotten out of hand in your restaurant it might seem impossible to get them off their phones and focused on work. But with these industry best practices and consistent enforcement you can.

This guide to restaurant cell phone policies will cover:

  • The problems introduced with cell phone use
  • What policies work to curb phone use on the clock
  • How to handle cell phone policy violations

Achieve better teamwork, more productivity, and higher quality service by helping your employees focus on what’s most important while at work.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Why Smartphones Are A Problem For Restaurants

Teen Phone Addiction

With so much of our lives tied up on these devices, it’s easy to become preoccupied with all the things going on in the outside world. We miss what’s happening in our physical environment and forget the task at hand.

The term used to describe this state is “FOMO” – fear of missing out. And it’s seriously detrimental. For young people raised in the 21st century constant habitual interaction with their phone has changed the way their brains are wired. Cell phone use has become an addiction.

When these young people enter the workforce, many pour into the food service industry. Here in the restaurant is where we encounter the culture clash between these distracted, constantly connected teens and the highly demanding focused work necessary to run a successful restaurant service.

Restaurant Management “Intervention”

It’s up to us as restaurant owners and managers to definitively control the situation. Even if we are seen as being overly harsh and unreasonable it’s important to take action to preserve quality of service.

It is becoming standard practice in the restaurant and hospitality industry to adopt a strict no phone policy. Experienced restaurant owners understand what’s at stake.

James Samara, general manager for Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House, in Denver, Colorado makes this point clear. “Obviously if guests see the cell phone, they think the staff is less attentive, less interested in their needs. It’s a guest perception issue.”

Megan Dennison is more adamant in her position. She oversees 175 employees in four restaurant locations. She addressed her staff’s cell phone use directly. “I said, ‘Okay, I am not asking you anymore. Either you lose your arm, or you lose the phone.’”

Expect Resistance to Change

Changing the culture in your restaurant is always difficult. Text-aholics in constant contact with friends and family will be resistant. Employees addicted to cat videos, “likes” and high scores may not stick around

Like any addict, when the source of their addiction is taken away, they will respond with anxiety and strong emotions. They will see you as the unreasonable one.

But the success of your restaurant is what’s most important. And it gets easier as you hire new employees with the expectation not to use their phone.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Establishing a No-Smartphone Policy

These are the steps to establishing your new restaurant phone policy. Expect resistance but drive on. Make sure your enforcement is consistent and not “phased in”. Otherwise, the rules will not be taken seriously.

Hold A Staff Meeting

Make the new cell phone use policy clear. Be sure everyone understands the new rules. Describe what the consequences are for violations. Don’t let it turn into a debate.

Create A Written Policy

Require all staff to sign a written statement that they understand the restaurant’s phone use policy and that it is taking effect immediately.

Set An Example

It’s imperative that if this policy is to be taken seriously at all that managers are 100% on-board. If your managers are cell phone addicts this can be difficult but still worth pursuing. Leadership should be united to set a good example.

Equal Enforcement

A policy is only as strong as its enforcement. Managers must enforce smartphone use rules equally, including their own use. If managers give their friends a pass but react harshly to others the rules will not be respected. Animosity will grow and the restaurant can be accused of discrimination.

Caught on Camera

Remind staff that you’re always watching the cameras and will use cameras to enforce the rules. Make it clear that when you’re not on site it’s not a free-for-all. This is important for managers to understand, especially if they don’t like the policy. Knowing that they have nowhere to hide will help your staff think twice about their actions.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

When Smartphone Rules Are Broken

The ground rules are set. But what do we do about violations?

Many restaurant managers find the following rules helpful.

No visible phones – Even on breaks, no one working should have their phones with them. They must leave them in their bags, lockers or vehicles. By eliminating them from the restaurant there can be no violation.

Confiscate phones – If staff is caught using their phones on shift, lock up their phone ‘til the end of the night. Adults being treated like children is embarrassing and hopefully should put an end to the habit after the first time.

Write-Ups – A formal disciplinary write-up could also be the deterrent necessary to show you’re serious about enforcement. A writeup could affect their career and their potential for a raise or promotion.

Termination – This may seem harsh, but someone who is not taking restaurant policies seriously about cell phone use probably isn’t following other important rules either. This type of employee is shirking their responsibility and can encourage others to ignore the rules too.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure


Cell phone use in restaurants is a growing problem as more young people enter the workforce. They have become addicted to the constant interaction with their phone.

This causes a direct conflict with the needs of guests and managers in the restaurant. As a response, many restaurants are adopting a strict zero tolerance policy, banning all cell phone use while on shift.

These rules may seem harsh, but in the face of a serious modern addiction it’s the only way. If you want your restaurant to be successful, your staff need to focus on completing the mission you’ve hired them for.

Labor is expensive, and restaurant employees need to respect the policies you’ve put in place to run a smooth operation.

This guide to the most effective cell phone use policies for restaurants is part of the free restaurant management resource library. Rezku is a restaurant management technology systems developer leading the way, with reliable, innovative and affordable solutions for point of sale, gift cards, online ordering and delivery, host stand table management and much more.

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