LONDON, 17 October 2019: Analysis into British attitudes towards dining etiquette has revealed double standards when it comes to consumer behaviour using phones in restaurants. According to the findings from mobile network benchmarking company, Global Wireless Solutions, 71% of people use their phones when dining out to check social media feeds, message family or friends, take photos of their food, browse the internet and other activities. But apparently there are ‘two sets of rules’ as 8 in 10 people who admit to using their phones while dining also get irritated when they see others doing the same. In fact, overall, certain phone activities make up six of the top ten most irritating dining habits.

GWS’ nationwide survey of Brits’ phone habits when in public places revealed that we are increasingly reliant on our devices and have certain expectations, particularly when dining out, as 9 in 10 do not have the patience to wait longer than usual for a call to connect or webpage to load when in a restaurant. Demand for fast connection is higher here than in other locations where more people are willing to wait longer for their network to perform, such as on a train, in the car, in a supermarket, or even at home.

But while we demand the best from our phones when dining out, seeing other diners on their device irritates Brits – at the top of the list of restaurant annoyances is people ‘talking loudly on their phone when at the table next to you.’ Following this, 41% find it irritating when fellow diners browse social media feeds or message others, and 29% dislike seeing others take selfies. Interestingly, a quarter of people get most irritated when they see people taking photos of their food, which is one of the top activities that people cite using their phones for when dining out.

However, it’s not only phones that rank highly in the league of restaurant annoyances – 39% say they are irritated by noisy children, and over a quarter (25%) are irritated by too much ‘PDA’ at the table. This rises with women as 30% find PDA annoying compared to just 19% of men. The gender divide continues in other areas as more men admit to using their phones for work when in a restaurant (14%), compared to just 8% of women. When it comes to noisy children though, Brits of both genders are grateful for smartphone parenting– nearly two thirds of those surveyed are ok with parents giving their phones to children as a distraction.

Figure 1. Top 10 most irritating habits when in restaurants


Someone talking loudly on their mobile phone at the table next to you 1
When a dining companion is on their phone messaging or browsing social media 2
When children are too noisy 3
When parents give their phones to children to watch videos 4
When people take lots of selfies on their phone 5
When people show too much PDA at the table 6
When people take photos of their food 7
When camera phone flashes go off frequently 8
When people use a toothpick at the table 9
When people insist on moving tables or chairs to accommodate their party 10


Dr Paul Carter, CEO of GWS said: “Whether screen-time at meal-time is to your taste or not, there’s no denying it’s become a normal part of life. Rather than only being used for ‘critical communications’ such as checking emails or answering emergency calls, we’re seeing people reliant on a connection to carry out a range of activities which are becoming more socially acceptable, even when eating. 1 in 10 even go so far as to say that they would leave a restaurant early if they couldn’t make calls or browse the internet. But with people admitting that seeing and hearing others on their phones annoys them, they seem to be applying double standards”.

“We test network performance in the places where people use their devices the most – with restaurants coming up high on the list. Like it or loathe it, it’s clear that social etiquette is changing, and people will continue to use their phones wherever they are. When it comes to network reliability and speed, people want to be served now – just like they do when dining out. That’s why operators should continue to invest to improve coverage and develop the networks in the places where people use their phones the most, including at the dinner table.”

The results build on from tests that GWS conducted last month which revealed the mobile network performance inside and outside the most popular Instagrammable restaurants in London. The results based on scientific testing around real-life usage showcased that O2 and EE had the highest number of successful call attempts in restaurants and O2 also had the highest data success rate for uploading and downloading files successfully. For more information see here.


Methodology and notes to editors

GWS’ nationwide poll of 2,000 mobile-phone wielding UK adults was conducted by OnePoll. Fieldwork took place from 7th to 15th May 2019. OnePoll are members of ESOMAR and employ members of the MRS.


About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.

Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. defines the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers standardised, high-quality network data and engineering analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services, and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that includes drive, venue, and in-building testing. Founded in 1996, GWS is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. At last count, GWS has driven more than 12.5 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.


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