The "no cell phone" rule that gained national attention
This may be a scenario you’ve experienced before: you sit down for a meal with a friend, family member or colleague, but instead of spending that time talking to one another, you’re scrolling through Instagram, texting other friends and are generally disconnected from the present moment. For Brad Williams, a father of four, it’s something he’s witnessed firsthand.
“I’ve seen this addiction to technology worsen at such a rapid pace in just my lifetime,” says Williams. “People have gone from having meaningful interactions with one another to constantly being on their phones and other technology.”
Williams wanted to ensure his family stayed connected in this technological age, but admits, it’s difficult. His solution – a “no cell phone” rule at the dinner table.
“My kids know when they sit down for a family dinner, they can’t be using their cell phones or any other technology,” says Williams, who jokingly calls them “screenagers.” “This is the way I was raised – to truly value meaningful conversation around the dinner table.” This technological distraction is more common than not. Americans now spend an average of 4.7 hours per day on their phone, according to a 2015 Informate Mobile Intelligence study. Although our phones were meant to bring us closer together, they can sometimes have the opposite effect.
Williams, who is also a Chick-fil-A franchise owner in Suwanee, Ga., has witnessed this trend not only in his home, but in his restaurant dining room.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and, over that time, I’ve seen customers at our restaurant go from spending quality time and talking with one another to being on their phones the entire meal,” says Williams. “There’s just a major disconnect.”
Realizing the “no cell phone” rule worked at home, he decided to apply the same concept in his restaurant. Thus, the “Cell Phone Coop” challenge was born. Here’s how it works:
The restaurant places a small, square box, (a.k.a. the Coop) on each table, with a simple challenge: enjoy a meal without the distraction of cell phones and receive a free Chick-fil-A Icedream. Guests complete the challenge successfully only if cellphones remain in the Coop untouched for their entire meal.
“The challenge has completely taken off,” says 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!”
And the challenge has caught on outside his restaurant too. Throughout his small community in Suwanee, Ga., a suburb outside of Atlanta, Williams is known for the technology-free initiative. “I have to make sure I’m following the same rules,” he says. “Now I make sure I put my phone away even when I’m out having dinner on the town.”
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and, over that time, I’ve seen customers at our restaurant go from spending quality time and talking with one another to being on their phones the entire meal. There’s just a major disconnect.”–Brad Williams
The challenge has been so well-received that Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country are requesting the Cell Phone Coops. Although this initiative isn’t available at all locations, more than 350 locally owned Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S. are offering guests the opportunity to take the Cell Phone Coop challenge.
“I had no idea this challenge would get so big – we didn’t even publicize it outside our restaurant,” says Williams. “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.”
To find out if you can be a part of the challenge, please contact your local Chick-fil-A Operator.