Restaurants learn not to make a meal out of mobiles

Ding. Bzzzt. Bap. Beep. That's the sound of conversation in restaurants these days. Where mobile phones once posed a nuisance as people chatted loudly into them during meals, smartphones present a whole new set of etiquette issues as entire tables disappear into the internet via small glowing screens.

Like an analogue world-munching Pac-Man, the modern smartphone has morphed into instant messenger, mailbox, camera, flashlight, computer, map, dictionary, newspaper, personal assistant and social media portal.

And as such its use at the table has become so prevalent that "restaurants are now forced to incorporate how to deal with them into the sequence of service and table maintenance," says Eric Rosenfeld, the general manager of the lush trattoria Il Covo, in Los Angeles, which has begun offering diners small plates to hold their phones in order to shield them from potential spills and dinner debris.