Should restaurants recharge customers' cellphones?

cell phone charging


I have been seeing a debate online about whether it’s rude for guests to ask servers to charge their cellphones. I was just thinking about adding a charging station. Thoughts?

– Bar Owner, Philadelphia, PA


The debate you mention seems to have started with an article in Vice magazine by Tae Yoon, a server and writer. His main gripe is that charging guest cellphones should not be his concern and takes him away from his primary job of serving food and drink. In a counter-argument, Matt Duckor from epicurious writes that charging a guest’s phone is just good hospitality with a great quote from the Vetri family’s Steve Wildy, “Please pee at home too, thanks. I'm pro-charging, simple courtesy."

The best way to deal with this debate, in my opinion, is to rise above it and make a sound business decision. The purpose of your bar is to make money selling food and drink. Would allowing or even encouraging cell phone charging help in accomplishing this goal? My guess would be yes. Guests who can charge cellphones while dining may not have chosen your establishment for your power outlets but very well may extend their visit (and their eating and drinking), or be more carefree and relaxed if not worried about being at 8 percent on their phone.

I agree with Yoon that during a rush the last thing a server wants to do is deal with charging a cellphone for a guest. Further, taking a guest’s phone in a busy restaurant is one more complication. If it is spilled on, dropped, or if privacy is breached, you may have a new service problem. I recommend installing outlets with USB chargers or any number of commercially available charging stations so that guests can charge their devices themselves. Doing so conveys that highest of hospitality concepts—empathy. The message you send is that you have been in the guest’s shoes, know how a dying battery can be stressful and frustrating and want to provide the best possible service so the guest can focus on her or his main job—spending money on your delicious food and beverage and enjoying your service and atmosphere.

More on cell phones in restaurants here.

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