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Applebee's 'No Tech Tuesday' Isn't Happening

Casual dining chain Applebee’s (DIN) has applied to trademark the phrase “No Tech Tuesday.” While one could reasonably infer that the restaurant is planning to host device-free dining on, say, Tuesdays, the chain denies that it has any such plans.

“Guests are welcome to use as much or as little tech as they want,” says Applebee’s spokesman Dan Smith. “Like many brands, we file many phrases for protection. There’s absolutely zero percent linkage between No Tech Tuesday and anything in the restaurant.”

So why trademark the phrase at all? It would seem the chain is considering some marketing around it but hasn’t quite worked out the details. It could, for instance, be used in some cutesy ad about going out to eat midweek to escape all your gadgets at home. That’s just a guess. Smith claims Applebee’s hasn’t even gotten that far. “It could be used in any number of things, for marketing. … But we have determined that any future application will have no link to the restaurant.”

What is clear is that trying to get customers—especially those in the valuable millennial demographic—to put down their devices is not a battle most restaurants want to fight. Some restaurants worry that the dining experience is worse when everyone is fixated on their screens, but many, such as McDonald’s (MCD) and Starbucks (SBUX), see smartphones and tablets as a valuable marketing tool and as the latest way to take orders and payments. They’re competing to engage these tech-hooked customers, not exclude them.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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