Quite a few restaurants around the world have implemented some sort of phone ban or restriction. The reason is usually to encourage customers to detach from technology, pay more attention to each other and enjoy a calmer, more relaxing meal.
The owner of the Tokyo based ramen shop Debu-chan however has different reasons. Kota Kai has noticed that people who spend time on their phones, especially watching videos, take a lot longer to eat their meal than those who don’t, which, he says, is unacceptable.
I feel it’s entertainment that is bound to include rules. It’s like ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Ramen is a form of entertainment.Kota Kai, owner of Debu-chan restaurant
First of all, during peak meal hours, a queue of people forms outside his restaurant, so the longer someone takes to finish their bowl, the longer the other people have to wait outside. “Once, when we were busy, we noticed a customer who didn’t start eating for four minutes”, Kai revealed, which he says is just too long.
But, more importantly, ramen is not a food that ages well, even for just four minutes. He serves a type of regional ramen from Hakata prefecture in western Japan for which he uses noodles that are only one millimetre wide. If they stay in the soup for too long, they overcook, ruining the experience. Ramen is “food born for impatient people”, Kai says, a rule that has to be respected. “I feel it’s entertainment that is bound to include rules. It’s like ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Ramen is a form of entertainment.”
He hasn’t put up any signs in the restaurant or warnings in the menu however, he doesn’t want to draw too much attention to this “rule”. If someone takes to long to eat their ramen, he just goes to that customer’s table and talks to them. “When the seats are full and I see people stop eating while staring at their smartphones, I tell them (to stop)”, Kai explains.