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Chick-fil-A challenges diners to ‘coop up’ their cellphones

Brad Miller, franchise owner of the Chick-fil-A in east Wichita, says new “cellphone coops” encourage distraction-free dining.
Brad Miller, franchise owner of the Chick-fil-A in east Wichita, says new “cellphone coops” encourage distraction-free dining. The Wichita Eagle

Some Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country, including one in east Wichita, are offering a sweet incentive for diners to put away their cellphones and focus on one another.

New “cell phone coop” boxes encourage families or anyone eating together to set their phones to silent, put them inside the box and close the lid.

The group can then enjoy their meal – and each other – without electronic distractions. If they complete the challenge, everyone in the party gets a free ice cream cone.

“It’s basically to try to encourage more interaction and face-to-face and focus – the things my kids want from me,” said Brad Fuller, owner of the Chick-fil-A franchise at Central and Rock in east Wichita.

“It isn’t to drive sales, but it’s to invest in people.”

The boxes were developed by a franchise owner in Georgia. Fuller said he saw them online and ordered some for his restaurant. Employees began putting them out on tables around lunchtime Monday.

It’s basically to try to encourage more interaction and face-to-face and focus – the things my kids want from me.

Brad Fuller, Chick-fil-A franchise owner

So far the east Wichita restaurant is the only local Chick-fil-A using the boxes. Officials at the west Wichita and Derby franchises said they know about them but don’t have them yet.

Fuller, a father of four, said he liked the idea of encouraging family time and cellphone-free family dinners.

“Sometimes I can be with my kids, and I’ll be tempted to look at numbers, and I don’t need to right then,” he said.

The boxes aren’t just for families, though, Fuller said. Anyone dining together – business associates, friends, neighbors, groups of high school students – are encouraged to “coop” their phones, eat their meals in peace and enjoy the free ice cream afterward.

“It’s a physical action that says, ‘We’re committing to each other,’ ” Fuller said. “When you do that, then everybody can have higher expectations. You can have a really good, engaged moment.

“It really is something small, but it matters.”

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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