FRANKIE and Benny’s has BANNED customers from using their mobile phones.

The American-Italian restaurant – which has branches in Basildon, Colchester, Chelmsford, Lakeside, Southend and Braintree – has taken the drastic step in a bid to encourage diners to enjoy time with their family and friends while eating.

‘No Phone Zones’ will be trialled by Frankie and Benny’s, with customers being given a box in which they can lock their mobiles during their meal.

And those who take part from today, Thursday, until Friday, December 7, will receive free children’s meals.

It comes after research by Frankie and Benny’s found that 72 per cent of kids wished that their parents would spend less time on their phones.

The trial could be rolled out permanently if it proves successful.

POLL: Would you hand over your phone to get free meals for your kids at Frankie & Benny's?

A spokesman for Frankie and Benny’s said: “We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we've found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time.

“Our staff will be actively encouraging customers and families to take part in the initiative but of course, we can't force them to hand over their phones.

“If the initiative is a success we'll certainly be looking at ways to activate it on a more permanent basis.”