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    Feb 11, 2014

    Dine without a phone, get a discount voucher

    STEP into Nook House of Pancakes in Bukit Timah on Feb 22 and you may witness an unusual sight - numerous diners eating with their phones placed face down on the table.

    The cafe is one of 13 participants in a local campaign called Put it On Friend Mode, started by four Nanyang Technological University final-year students.

    This is how it works: Diners pledge online to have a phone-free meal on Feb 22 and receive a voucher to use that day at the cafe.

    They get the discount - ranging from 1-for-1 drinks to 10 per cent off their bill - only if they successfully eschew their phone during the meal.

    "Putting one's phone away or putting it face down may seem easy, but it's really more difficult than it sounds," said one of the organisers, Mr Malvin Chua, who added that the aim is to get people to observe pro-social habits while dining.

    Other participating cafes include The Garden Slug in Telok Kurau and Commune Cafe in Raffles Boulevard.

    But eateries like The Manhattan Fish Market have gone with their own campaign, Unplug. Their version, which started last month, requires diners to put their phones into a box. If it remains unopened at the end of the meal, each diner receives a $5 dining voucher.

    It is no surprise that such a trend has reached Singapore shores.

    Research by technology site Networks Asia found that smartphone penetration here has risen from 74 per cent in 2012 to 79 per cent last year. Apps usage, meanwhile, has risen from 70 per cent in 2012 to 75 per cent last year.

    Meanwhile, Nooks House of Pancakes operations manager Amy Ho said that it is not uncommon to see families dining together, but not talking at all.

    "It is quite a (pity) to see people always on their mobile devices," she said, adding that she joined the campaign because she wanted to promote bonding. "In the past, people used to talk more."

    Mother-of-three Rozita Mahmood, 49, said that it can be a challenge getting her children to put their mobile devices away when dining at the table.

    "Mealtimes are the only time when the family can catch up with each other. We shouldn't be distracted by our phones," she said.