Charlie’s PizzaTaco owners test cellphone battery chargers at each table

batterytwoWICHITA — The Shockers’ season may be over, but an incident that happened during one of the games has inspired an invention that is in the test phase and soon will go national.

A few weeks ago, Charlie’s PizzaTaco co-owner Tim Holmes says he observed a dilemma a customer was having in his restaurant near Central and Tyler.

“One day there was a young man watching the Wichita State game, and he was obviously fighting with his girlfriend via text message.”

Holmes says the customer’s phone was about to die, but he didn’t want to leave the restaurant. Nor did he want to further upset his girlfriend.

“He was kind of torn,” Holmes says. “So he asked me, ‘Do you have a charger that I could borrow?’”

Holmes thought it would a great idea to have a charger at every table so no customer ever has to choose between lingering over a meal and leaving in order to charge a phone.

His partner, David Hoffman, happens to own a company that manufactures cellphone batteries and sells accessories for phones to retailers nationally.

“We do about everything for a phone,” he says of Celltronix, which is part of Hoffco Brands in Golden, Colo.

Hoffman says his company is building a prototype and has some temporary devices at Charlie’s.

“I said, ‘Just put these out there, and get a reaction for me,’” Hoffman says.

“Basically what we’re doing right now is just testing the theory out,” Holmes says.

He says the device is a simple battery pack, which makes it portable.

“You don’t have to rewire your entire restaurant to do this project,” Holmes says.

There are three plugs in one charger for iPhones and Droids. The devices are attached to napkin holders.

The prototype batteries will be enclosed to prevent theft.

“Since I put them in, people just use the heck out of ’em,” Holmes says.

He says he regularly hears comments such as, “That’s a really cool idea.”

Holmes says about 75 percent of his customers at any given time will either be on their phones or have them out at their tables.

“When their phone runs out of power, they leave,” Hoffman says.

The batteries are “just a matter of convenience for everybody.”

Hoffman wants to offer restaurants the opportunity to put their logos on the devices and also sell them to customers.

“That could be bigger than the dinner in many places,” he says.

Hoffman says he doesn’t expect it to take long to get the product ready to go nationally.

“It goes pretty quick, actually,” he says.

He expects them to take off just as quickly.

“It’s all about power,” Hoffman says.

He says phones are incredibly important to people. To illustrate, Hoffman presented a scenario where he would have to make a choice between leaving town without his wife or leaving without his phone.

“I would leave without my wife, of course,” he says. “That’s how much we love these devices.”