Pre-Thanksgiving Study Exposes Significant Cell Phone Use During Family Mealtimes, Discloses They Are Not Welcome At Holiday Table

by | Nov 17, 2023


As the nation prepares to celebrate the most notable family meal of the year, Thanksgiving, a new consumer study of U.S. adults reveals that 68% of households have someone using their phone during mealtime with others. Paradoxically, the same study reveals that 65% personally do not like it – and 42% personally feel it is downright rude. In fact, four in 10 households are not planning to allow cell phones at the Thanksgiving table.

The research was conducted via a survey of 1,163 adults (18+) during the last week of October 2023 through Acosta Group’s proprietary Shopper Community of over 40,000 U.S. household shoppers who provide feedback on what drives their shopping and consumption behaviors. The results of the survey are statistically significant and representative of all regions of the United States.

There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is the poster-child of family meals and all the goodness they impart – emotionally, culturally and physically.

SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert

Founder, Food Not Phones Initiative

The study provides a fresh update on attitudes and behaviors related to cell phone use during mealtimes among American households. It shows a contrast of both positive and concerning information. For example, it verifies that family meals are alive and well in the U.S., with most dinners (64%) eaten together. At the same time, it substantiates that cell phone use during meals has become commonplace, both at home and at restaurants.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the data demonstrates that there is a generational stratification of tolerance of cell phone usage during shared meals in that 58% of Baby Boomers find the behavior to be rude, while only 23% of Gen Z share the sentiment. Males are twice as likely as females to feel that it is fine to use a cell phone during a family meal. In households with children, adults live up to the adage of “do as I say and not as I do” in that 64% of male adults and 52% of female adults use their cell phones during meals versus 39% of kids (13 to 17 years old).

In stark contrast to self-reported behaviors, most households (71% all households / 83% households with kids) do suggest putting phones down when eating at home. And 67% suggest putting phones down during restaurant meals. When it comes to Thanksgiving etiquette, be prepared: 53% of Baby Boomer households warn that cell phones “absolutely will not be allowed at the table;” 41% of Gen X households and 29% of Millennial households are planning to enforce the same rule.

Assortment of images of people eating dinner.

“There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is the poster-child of family meals and all the goodness they impart – emotionally, culturally and physically,” says SupermarketGuru, Phil Lempert, the founder of the #FoodNotPhones initiative. “It also is the ideal meal at which families can make a resolution to put down the cell phones so they can enjoy some undistracted, quality time and appreciate the value of real-world interactions and the joys of savoring food without digital interruptions. In my house this Thanksgiving, we plan to use our phones to take great photos of our family and beautiful food – and then leave the devices in the other room. I encourage others to join me in this challenge. It may just heighten your awareness of how much you have to be thankful for!”

About Food Not Phones

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Food Not Phones is a transformative initiative designed to rejuvenate human connections through shared mealtimes. Inspired by the insights of US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the movement encourages individuals to put down their digital devices during meals, enabling them to experience the joy of uninterrupted interactions. Supported by industry leaders, Food Not Phones aims to spread awareness about the profound impact of shared meals on combating loneliness and fostering community. For more information, visit or contact

About Acosta Group

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Acosta Group is a collective of the most trusted retail, marketing and foodservice agencies empowering brands and retailers to win in the modern marketplace. By delivering transformative, commerce-focused solutions and more than 95 years of expertise, Acosta Group connects the company’s partners with people at every point in the consumer journey. For more information, visit Acosta Group on LinkedIn and at or contact