SIOUX CITY | Karen and Daryl Brown sat in a booth at Sneaky's Chicken on Wednesday night waiting for their food to arrive.
A black-and-gray speckled photo box holding their smartphones sat at the edge of the table against the wall.
Daryl Brown said the Sioux City couple thought it would be fun to put away the devices while they dine and earn a discount in the process.
Between 5 and 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, customers who voluntarily relinquish their phones receive 10 percent off their entire bill.
Owner Dave Ferris and his daughter, general manager Christy Wright, came up with the idea after they noticed a decline in conversation among customers who seemed preoccupied with their cell phones.
"It was just something that we just wanted to see if we could stop for a little bit and have people enjoy each other's company more than their cell phones," Wright said.
According to Google's Our Mobile Planet research, 82 percent of smartphone owners use their phones in restaurants. Seventy-two percent browse the Internet while 67 percent use apps while dining.
Greta Siebersma, a psychiatric nurse and counselor for Mercy Pathways in Sioux City, has friends who place their cell phones in the middle of the table when they go out to eat. The first one to pick up their phone, she said, gets to pay the bill.
There's so much more to communication than the words we speak, according to Siebersma. Mealtime, she said, is a good time to make eye contact and interpret body language.
"Just the way a dining table is designed, you're either sitting across from somebody or in a circle," she said. "You sense some of the things they might be feeling from their body language, so being in a circle or around a table, of course, is an ideal way of communicating."
Setting aside their smartphones wasn't a problem for the Browns.
"When we talk we'll say, 'What about this?' and surf," Karen Brown said. "We don't use them to talk. We think that's rude."
Leaflets on tables explain the promotion called "Back in the Day Dinner." The servers bring red, tan or printed photo boxes to the table for willing customers to store their cell phones in. The boxes are pushed off to the side of the table, allowing customers to dine without distraction.
"I would say 99 percent of the people (participate)," Wright said. "Some are kind of hesitant. Some really think it's a great idea. They're like, 'I don't know if I can give it up, but I'll try.'"
Paul and Jodi Speidel, of Sioux City, and their daughters Callahan, 8, and Devaney, 10, came back a second week in a row for the promotion.
Devaney said she didn't mind giving up her cell phone.
"I'm rarely on it," she said as she munched on a cheese ball.
Paul Speidel admitted he's the one in the family with an issue. The pastor at Westlawn Presbyterian Church and Sioux City Community School District board member regularly texts, browses social media sites and sends emails while eating with his family.
"I think it's a great idea," said Speidel, who is getting into the habit of ignoring his phone while dining at other restaurants.
Texting and surfing the web completely takes an individual's attention away from the person they're eating with. Children who feel ignored will act out, according to Siebersma. Significant others and friends, she said, often feel unimportant.
"I've see it too, where a couple is out to dinner together and they may both be on their cell phone," she said. "You say, 'What's the point? Why are you even bothering to go out?'"
Sometimes incoming calls make the cell phone boxes move across the tables at Sneaky's. Wright said staff get a kick out of it. Customers, she said, don't seem to miss their cell phones at all, inadvertently walking out the door without them.
"We've had to chase them down with the box," she said.