The New York Post
By AMBER SUTHERLAND and CLAYTON JONES
Last Updated: 1:23 PM, October 6, 2010
In an era when compulsive technology freaks find silence deafening, diners texting, tweeting, e-mailing or gabbing on cellphones in restaurants are ruining New Yorkers’ appetites.
A new Zagat survey of 40,000 New York foodies proves how we really feel — that cellphone junkies are “rude and inappropriate.” Two out of three New Yorkers agree.
“Talking on cellphones is the most annoying thing someone can do in a restaurant,” said Martin Sheridan, 60, owner of TriBeCa’s Ear Inn.
Thirty-two percent of responders tolerate “moderate” use of smartphones in restaurants, Zagat found.
“Moderate,” however, is subjective.
Katy MacLellan, 25, a dancer who lives on the Lower East Side, disdainfully recalled yesterday a recent meal she had in Union Square, when she found a couple’s rude behavior hard to swallow.
“They were both talking on their phones the whole time, not talking to each other at all,” MacLellan said. “The woman was in her own world. It was embarrassing.”
Sitting at a restaurant bar sipping orange juice, MacLellan subconsciously began texting her boyfriend as she was still telling the story.
Sometimes it’s even worse for the restaurant staffers than it is for diners.
“Customers tend to forget what they came into this establishment for because they’re so locked onto their Blackberries,” huffed Joe Ramirez, 30, manager of Midtown salad spot Chop’t.
“With us, it’s like you ask them what type of salad dressing or toppings they want, and it takes them five minutes to answer because they’re on the phone, and that holds up the line.”
When he politely told one customer to get off his phone, he said, “he spat some rude comments back to my staff, citing free speech. I had to come from the back and ask him to leave. I almost had to call security.”
But sitting at a bar on a first date and pulling out the Blackberry has to be the worst offense.
Andrea Pritchett, 36, an entrepreneur from the Upper East Side, spoke of having drinks with a guy, and having a great conversation.
“Everything was going well, then he pulled out his phone,” she said. He addressed two e-mails, and when I saw the phone come out, I was like, ‘Really?’ Not exactly my idea of a hot date.”
At a SoHo restaurant yesterday, Stephen Kunken, 39, an actor and sound designer, enjoyed a salad with his iPad, his iPad keyboard and his cellphone laid out before him. To him, this wasn’t rude.
“I have a busy day today, and this was as good a time as any to multitask over lunch,” he said.
Where restaurants once were meant for eating, they are now seen by some as places to snap photos, text blow-by-blow details of their daily lives and post public updates on themselves and their food as they dine.
Some diners are giving running commentaries on their culinary experiences on Facebook. And rather than ordering appetizers, they’re sitting at the table using computer apps to count calories on the menu.
In SoHo yesterday, Daria Gusachenko, 24, a photographer, was enjoying lunch while intermittently chatting and texting on her phone — drawing some annoyed stares.
“My friend called me and I had nothing to do while I waited for my salad. Everybody is talking to somebody, but I came here alone, so I think it’s fine to talk on the phone. My phone is my company.”
One bartender said some bring in all their gear and just camp out.
“One woman showed up here every day with her laptop, would order a cup of coffee and maybe an appetizer, and stay for three hours,” said bartender Ray Adams, 62, at the Spring Street Natural Restaurant and Bar in SoHo. “I finally told her we couldn’t allow it anymore.”
Tony Sayegh, 67, a customer at Manetta’s in Long Island City, spoke fondly of the fact that some European restaurants use scramblers so people can’t talk during dinner.
Here, he said, “there’s nothing you can do except shoot them a dirty look, and I can shoot more than a dirty look.”
In response to the tech invasion of restaurant dining rooms, a growing number of establishments are banning talking while eating. SoHo’s Ear Inn did so after one too many “loud talker” cellphone users started shouting into a phone.
Editor’s response: I addressed this prominent pet peeve in my book, That’s So Annoying. If you agree with those who don’t like others’ cell phones intruding while dining, you will enjoy the book.