US restaurant owners who once relied on "no cell phones, please" signs are now experimenting with everything from penalties for using phones, discounts for not using them and outright bans on photography.
"There's no place to get away from the chatter," said Julie Liberty of Miami, who started the Facebook page "Ban Cell Phones From Restaurants" earlier this year.
Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles began offering patrons a 5 per cent discount if they leave their phone at the door.
Online comments ranged from cheers of "YES!" to others who said their phones would have to be pried from their cold, dead hands.
The policy is working. Eva's Rom Toulon said about 40 per cent of customers leave their cell phones at the door.
A Vermont deli posted a sign telling customers that $3 will be added to their bill "if you fail to get off your phone while at the counter. It's rude."
Disgusted diners are doing their part with games like "phone stack," in which everyone places their phones in a pile in the middle of the table. The first person who reaches for their phone pays the bill for all.
Irritation over distracted dining has broadened with the rise of photo-sharing apps like Instagram. The popular online scrapbook Pinterest is clogged with photos of food snapped moments before eating.
Grant Achatz, the famous Chicago-based molecular gastronomist, once wrote a much-forwarded post complaining about it. "I can't imagine how celebrities feel," he wrote. "No wonder they punch the paparazzi out when they get the chance."
Some restaurants ban photos, like David Chang's Ko in New York City. At high-end Washington, DC, restaurant Rogue 24, hostesses ask guests to take photos without a distracting flash.
"I mean you can't fight it," said owner R.J. Cooper. "Why fight a losing battle?"
One in five US adults say they share online when eating a meal with others, and more than a third of teens do the same, according to the 2012 State of Mobile Etiquette Survey for Intel Corp.
The same survey found 81 per cent of US adults believe mobile manners are getting worse, up 6 percentage points from last year.
While the technology is new, the rules of etiquette are old-fashioned common sense. Silence your phone in restaurants and don't answer unless there's a good reason, like a sick child at home. If you do answer, excuse yourself from the table. Try to keep your phone off the table, since it signals to your companions that you're waiting for something better.
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