What Role Can “Digital Detox” Take in The Restaurant And Catering Industry?

Restaurants in Israel are offering discounts to customers who leave their mobile phones at home. The Weinstadt Hotel near Stuttgart has even introduced mobile phone-free zones. Owner Stéphanie Staudenmeyer speaks with us about going on “Digital Detox”.

The Weinstadt-Hotel near Stuttgart has even introduced mobile phone free zones.

Mrs. Staudenmeyer, the Weinstadt Hotel is the first hotel in Germany to have introduced mobile phone-free zones. Telephones and notebooks are not allowed in the restaurant and bar area. Why?

Mobile phones have changed the way we socialise. This is particularly noticeable in the hotel and restaurant industry. Many guests just sit there and stare at their smartphones, barely able to utter a single nice word. My husband Marco Rabander really noticed it. And once he told me, I also saw it happening: For many people a mobile phone is like having an addiction problem. Two years ago, we made a decision: We do not want this to continue. We would like to be the place where our guests can take some time off from their mobile phones.

Did it turn out a success? What do your guests say about going on “Digital Detox”?

Opinions vary. Some will immediately frown and probably not return as guests. Others think it’s awesome. Here is an example: An older lady, who celebrated her birthday here in our restaurant, gave me a big hug and said: “It was just so nice that nobody had any mobile phones with them. We haven’t talked like that, in that intensity, for a long time.” There are also couples who consciously use their time here in our restaurant to simply talk with each other.

Stéphanie Staudenmayer, owner of Weinstadt-Hotel

Many restaurateurs see a mobile phone-free environment as being backwards, some even think it’s “poison” for their business. What do you tell them?

There are of course those super-cosmopolitan hotels where this sort of thing would simply be out of place. But it can be a good thing for those who want to focus more on the nature and the region. It also has a positive effect on our staff, because - I am exaggerating a little bit now - they are actually being perceived as human beings again and are getting the appreciation they deserve.

What would you say are the other benefits of having “mobile phone-free zones”?

It does put the mind at rest, which is essential for our ability to regenerate. I think that it is important to simply not be contactable for a while, to make different choices in what we want to enjoy. It changes the entire atmosphere. Ever since we took that step, our place has been filled with a special calmness. It is difficult to describe. It feels a bit like times long gone by, like in the “olden days”.

“Digital Detox” is now offered by an increasing number of restaurants and hotels. In the Austrian federal state of Steiermark, for example, there are hotels that offer no WiFi and no mobile reception at all. What would it take for you to have a look at a concept like that?

As we are mainly focused on business travellers, this would not be a suitable concept for us. There will be WiFi and mobile reception in the guest rooms and the lobby, and we will continue to upgrade these facilities. But we still want to offer our business guests to take some “time off” and allow them to “slow down”, at least when they take their meals. Our motto is: Digital - yes, but sensibly, please!

Do you think “Digital Detox” is a concept that will prevail in the restaurant and catering industry?

It will in the right places, where it makes sense. A growing number of people just don’t want to be contactable around the clock anymore. I would of course be happy if it turns out that way.


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