Some Chick-fil-A restaurant operators just launched a new "family challenge" to encourage customers to place their cellphones on silent and put them in a "Cell Phone Coop" on their food tables until the end of each meal. More than 350 locally owned Chick-fil-A locations currently offer patrons the opportunity to take the Cell Phone Coop challenge, which started with one of the company's Georgia-based franchise owners.
At those Chick-fil-A participating restaurants, every family member who makes it through the meal without using their phone receives a free Icedream, which is a vanilla dairy dessert that has chocolate and strawberry toppings available.
Distractions caused by cell phone usage are very common. Americans now spend an average of 4.7 hours per day on their phone, according to a 2015 Informate Mobile Intelligence study.
"We really want our restaurant to provide a sense of community for our customers, where family and friends can come together and share quality time with one another," Brad Williams, a Chick-fil-A operator in Suwanee, Georgia, said in a statement to U.S. News. "As we all know, technology increasingly demands more of our time and can be a big distraction, even while we're eating. This got me thinking about what we could do to reduce this distraction during meals."
Williams, a father of four, told Chick-fil-A he started this family challenge concept because he said the addiction to technology is worsening at such a rapid pace. "People have gone from having meaningful interactions with one another to constantly being on their phones and other technology."
"The challenge has completely taken off," said Williams. "We have families who don't make it the first time, either because they ended up texting or something else, but then they come back in to try it again. Now we even have people asking to take the boxes home with them!"
Williams said he had no idea the technology-free initiative would get so big. "We didn't even publicize it outside our restaurant. I just want to see if we can play a small part in helping the families within in our community reconnect. It's what we're all about."