Leamington chef met with anger over mobile phone ban

Darren Yates
Darren Yates
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A Leamington chef is shunning criticism and sticking to his plea for diners to ditch mobile phones after implementing a ban on technology at the table.

Darren Yates who opened Japanese-styled Auradaze in Bedford Street two years ago, is the latest chef to shun technology and opt for a phone-free environment for his customers.

Darren Yates

Darren Yates

The 48-year-old chef explained that the often unpopular policy is a way of encouraging guests to engage with each other rather than be uploading pictures to social media and checking emails.

And also about giving security to his waiters who can be intimidated, or even ignored when faced with a table littered with smartphones.

But he said asking visitors to the 12-seat venue to abide by the policy has evoked anger, upset and even seen customers walk out - reactions which he said echo those seen during his 15 years working with alcohol and drug addicts when trying to coax them off drink and drug abuse.

Defending his decision, Darren said: “It isn’t just the younger generation, we get all ages who are not happy about not being able to use phones.

I have been a mentor for drug addicts and alcoholics and the same behaviour is exhibited when we ask people to refrain from using a mobile.

Darren Yates

“We are here to provide a unique experience and allow people to enjoy an evening with friends of family. How can they do that when they are all tapping away.

“There are also issues for my waiting staff who can feel intimidated when someone plonks an iPhone 6 on a table. What if a drink is spilt on it, where does liability lie?

“We respect people’s choices and expect them to respect ours. But what is alarming is the reactions we have seen.

“I have been a mentor for drug addicts and alcoholics and the same behaviour is exhibited when we ask people to refrain from using a mobile.

Auradaze

Auradaze

“This is not taking away personal choice, we just respectfully ask to remain a phone-free zone for everyone.

“If people want to check Facebook or take calls they can do it outside or they can choose to eat elsewhere.

“I know the policy will not please everybody but I am sticking to my principles.”

He said all customers to the family-run restaurant are told at the time of booking (all via a text service) that telephones are not welcome at the tables, and notices have been put up.

The debate about smartphones in restaurants has erupted in recent months as increasing numbers of chefs enforce bans.

Michelin-starred chefs including Richard Turner and Gordon Ramsay are among the latest famous names to ban mobile phones from their restaurants, and others have even made sure there is no mobile signal in their buildings.

But the decision at Auradaze has led to critical reviews being posted on online review site Trip Advisor over how the ban has been handled.

After being confronted over mobile use in his group, one diner wrote: “Instead of calmly informing my friend of the policy, the waiter pounced on her and the chef delivered a rant, lasting several minutes, of how he was personally offended. He then threatened to stop service and invited us to leave. Which we did.”