As the majority of U.S. states and several countries worldwide cautiously (or not!) reopen their doors to customers, one rule seems to prevail regardless of culture or custom: maintaining a safe social distance between employees and guests whenever possible. As restaurant owners are a creative and scrappy lot, ways to enforce that are also getting, shall we say, creative. Let’s take a look:
As Eater DC reported, Virginia’s three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington is enforcing social distancing by plopping well-dressed mannequins into empty seats, which is definitely not creepy — or reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s “The After Hours” — at all.
At Cafe Livres in Essen, Germany, at least a half-dozen mannequins, borrowed from a local theater group, are placed around the cafe. Pictured above is one such specimen probably thinking to itself, “When did the news get to be so bleak?”
To dissuade people from gathering at the bar, this Vienna bar placed a mannequin on top of the bar itself in addition to strategically around the table seating. Dinner and a show, just marvelous.
Meanwhile, at this restaurant in Vilnius, Lithuania, the inanimate diners look like they just stepped off the runways of Fashion Week.
At Five Dock Dining in New South Wales, Australia, cardboard cutouts in the shape of humans are put in place to make diners “feel more comfortable” (as is pumped-in “background noise” that creates more of a din than the city’s imposed 10-guest seating limit. “The cutouts and background noise are a bit eerie when you first walk in,” owner Frank Angeletta told Australia’s 7 News. “But once you’re sitting down it’s a bit of fun.” A reminder that we all have different definitions of the word “fun”!
Speaking of fun, how about these blow-up dolls that South Carolina restaurant Open Hearth is using? Before you get any funny ideas, just know that these are “the G-rated kind” of inflatable dolls, the restaurant owners clarified to WYFF News 4.
Non-human shaped objects
Okay now we’re talking. Speaking on behalf of all of Eater, I am very here for these cardboard cartoon dragons at a restaurant in Bangkok, where coronavirus restrictions were eased in late April.
Even cuter! Customers at the Maison Saigon restaurant in Bangkok are seated alongside stuffed pandas to remind them of social distancing. Hope these hard-working pandas at least get some fake bamboo for their efforts.
Japan’s Izu Shaboten Zoo, famous for its hot spring filled with capybaras enjoying the hot tub life, definitely stayed on brand when it came to picking which adorable stuffed animal would occupy its cafe seating.
At this German brasserie, each party of guests is sheltered under its own “greenhouse,” an innovation that is both romantic and practical during inclement weather.
A touch more makeshift are these barriers between patrons at Powell’s Steamer Co. & Pub in Placerville, California. Whatever works!
This restaurant in Rome also embraced barriers, in the form of plexiglass panels placed between tables. In major cities where restaurants are already tight on real estate, I would frankly embrace permanent barriers between crammed-together tables even in the best of times — anything for some thin veneer of privacy!
Goga Cafe in Milan, Italy, went one step further by installing plexiglass barriers not only between tables, but also between dining companions. No sharing a single strand of spaghetti until your lips inadvertently meet in a kiss here, folks!
This shabu-shabu restaurant in Bangkok took a similar approach, using contraptions that look even easier to DIY with some pipes, sheets of plastic, and a little elbow grease.
Objects to wear on one’s person
This restaurant in Maryland intends to use bumper tables to keep customers six feet apart once it begins to take seated diners. pic.twitter.com/ReCLbzcowF
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 18, 2020
In Ocean City, Maryland, seaside restaurant Fish Tales ordered 10 “bumper tables” to use when dine-in service begins again. Customers will get their own wheeled inner-tube tables to roll around and socialize in at a distance of six feet from each other. Would not recommend ramming into each other’s bumper tables at high speeds while eating or drinking.
At Cafe Rothe in Germany, where some coronavirus restrictions on public life have been lifted, guests don pool noodle hats designed to keep distancing. In my non-expert opinion, this probably doesn’t seem like the best way to keep customers apart, as the restaurant owner herself admitted to CNN. Maybe add an inflatable raft to the headgear, too?