Redefine Social

We’ve all been there.  Sitting with friends or family, and nobody is talking to one another.  In fact, nobody is even *looking* at one another.  Instead, they’re all staring at their phones.

A decade after the introduction of the smartphone, a bit of a “smartphone backlash” has come about.  Or at least fatigue with being constantly connected.  Increasingly, people are concerned about being present in the moment.

Somewhere along the way “being social” was redefined as having as many friends as possible on Facebook, posting a picture online, or chatting with numerous people simultaneously, all while being alone at home.

Frustration with omnipresent mobile devices is expressed in a variety of ways.  People talk about the need for digital detox.  “Phone stack”, where everyone in a group stacks their phones, and the first to pick up their phone is penalized in some way, has made it into the Urban Dictionary.

Videos like “I Forgot My Phone” and “Look Up” have gone viral, with nearly 50 & 60 Million views, respectively.

“I Forgot My Phone”

“Look Up”

Of course, the smartphone won’t be going away anytime soon, and the technology and its use will continue to evolve over time.  Still, there appears to be an increasing awareness that in our quest to be continuously connected we are missing out on life.

An evolving view of what it means to “be social” presents an opportunity for restaurateurs.  As society develops social mores regarding the use of smartphones, and we learn to use them in a more balanced manner, people may increasingly seek out opportunities to “be social” in a more traditional manner.  Like gathering around the table for a meal.  Perhaps we’ve begun to come full circle, and learn how to be genuinely interested in people once again in real life.  Not just on a screen.

Younger people, who’ve never known or can scarcely remember a time before the smartphone, may discover that being “in the moment” is much more fulfilling than spending hours staring at a screen.

Restaurateurs can encourage this trend by thinking of creative ways to get people to connect once more.  Over lunch or dinner.  Promoting themes like “Phone Stack Night” can become opportunities to increase traffic.  Games, activities, events and mixers are other approaches that can get people off their phones and into your restaurant.  Educational marketing campaigns that remind consumers of the simple pleasure of spending time with friends, family and co-workers over a meal is another approach.  Get creative.  Remind people that dining together is about more than just eating.

Helping people relearn this simple fact may help them to discover once again how spending time with the people around us, instead of staring at a phone, makes life more fulfilling and less lonely.  Eating out can help people to become more balanced.  Make “being social”, in the *physical sense*, a reason to “go out” once again.  Make these themes a central message in your marketing and you may just find that you have more people coming in for a meal.  And not just because they’re hungry.

Through such efforts, restaurateurs can do their part to redefine social.


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