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Restaurateurs split on phones at the table

When chef R.J. Cooper was designing his newest restaurant, Gypsy Soul in Merrifield, Va., builders asked if he wanted a cellphone charging station at the hostess desk. His answer:

"No — 100% a no," Cooper said. "We're not the Apple superstore."

Cooper's other restaurant, the exclusive Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., used to ban cellphones, though he has since relaxed the policy. He says there's no point — customers will break out the phones no matter what.

The issue of cellphones in restaurants — to ban or not to ban — has chefs stewing. Most just live with the disruption. Some even offer to charge phones.

But some prominent restaurateurs are taking a stand.

In Los Angeles, Bucato bans talking on phones and taking pictures. Similarly, D.C. chef Spike Mendelsohn has a no-phones policy at his speakeasy-style Sheppard in Washington.

Cooper says cellphones at the table are "one of the worst dining trends ever," because they distract customers and restaurant workers from the dining experience.

In July, an anonymous Craigslist user claiming to be a restaurant manager posted complaints that customers using their cellphones had increased wait times, because people spent more time on their phones than reading menus. He compared current and 10-year-old security tapes to prove it.

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