Love it or hate it, cellphones are as ubiquitous as wine glasses on dining room tables these days. Today’s Y&H column tackles the various restaurant policies and attitudes toward digital devices. Some, like The Sheppard, have gone so far as to ban photo-taking or phone use. Others make it as easy as possible for you to be plugged in, outfitting their establishments with plenty of outlets and offering free Wi-Fi. One Philly restaurant even has a “phone charger course” where a charger is presented mid-meal in case your battery is running low as you Instagram your dinner.
I confess: I am one of "those people" who rarely goes to dinner without snapping a photo of my meal. That said, I don’t want to be an asshole who deserves a role in a Portlandia skit. So I try my best to abide by certain etiquette rules. Follow these six tips to avoid your date, the staff, and the entire dining room from wanting to throw fettuccine in your face:
1. Avoid flash. Even though I embrace mid-meal photography, I still get annoyed by the people who look like they brought strobe lights to dinner. If you’re blinding the people around you or disturbing their experience, you’re doing it wrong. And if the dining room is so dark that you need flash, chances are your photo is going to suck anyway.
2. Camera phones are better. Maybe you bought a fancy macro lens for that Canon DSLR, but save it for the photo shoot of your homemade cupcakes in your living room. Professional cameras are bulky and distracting and make you as much of a spectacle as you’re making the food. Smartphones are far more discrete, and everyone else around you probably has one next to their fork and knife anyway. Plus, they offer pretty damn good quality these days.
3. Abide by the other five second rule. Your dining companions are hungry. The chef doesn’t want his or her food to get cold. So make it quick. This isn’t a Vogue photo shoot. Seriously, you can get in and out in five seconds.
4. Don’t bother with a photo that you already know will look terrible. If the dining room is so dim that you won’t be able to tell a profiterole from a potato, just keep your phone in your pocket. Similarly, some dishes just aren’t attractive. Chicken liver mousse on toast may taste delicious, but your 108 Instagram followers will never know it by the looks of that beige on beige blur. You'll also be doing the restaurant a favor by not poorly representing their dishes.
5. Eat early. There are many benefits to eating like a senior citizen. First and foremost, it’s always easy to get a table without a reservation. But for those who want to brag “#nofilter” on Instagram, it has the added bonus of providing a nice Golden Hour glow for your amateur pics. Plus, chances are the restaurant won't be full yet, so you won't be crowded by other tables distracted by whatever you're doing.
6. Post your photos on social media after you leave the restaurant. Yes, you want to remember your meal, but you also want to enjoy it. There’s really no urgent reason to Tweet your photos right away. Dig in instead of logging in, and when you have a few spare minutes later that day or the next, upload away.