The hilarious ways restaurants are imposing social distancing
Welcome to your new normal
For some of us, it feels like lockdown is finally coming to an end. We are a long way from normality but, around the world, shops are beginning to open, and restaurants are taking bookings again. It's the light at the end of the tunnel we have all been waiting for, even if we still have to enjoy it at a 2m distance.
That distance is not going to be reduced any time soon, but it's a great deal less than the house bound limits that have been imposed for the last few months. I, for one, cannot wait to be 2m away from my friends and family, instead of two postcodes away.
It's important we don't get carried away though. For the huggers among you, I imagine it's very tempting to give everyone in the vicinity a warm embrace, and restaurants have taken it upon themselves to ensure that we all stay safe as we are set (relatively) free.
The lengths some places have gone to is admirable, whereas some other places have made a truly laughable effort. Here are some of the best measures being put in place to keep diners at a distance.
Pool noodle hats
Of course. Absolutely nothing weird or out the ordinary about this. Cafe & Konditorei Rothe, in Germany, reopened last month and, while people could be sensible about the social distancing guidelines that are still in place, decided they would construct these very useful hats to get some laughs from diners and passers by.
Owner of the coffee shop, Jacqueline Rother, said "In these difficult times, it's a pleasure to make others smile."
Image: Cafe & Konditorei Rothe
Pandas for company
Vietnamese restaurant, Maison Saigon, in Bangkok had originally reopened with one seat at each table, which certainly proved effective in keeping people apart. The owners of the restaurant said that the place felt empty so they decided to change their strategy, while still keeping diners safe. All the chairs originally removed were replaced and, on the ones they needed to remain empty, they popped some stuffed pandas there. Nobody dines alone here.
Fish Tales, in Maryland, USA, is preparing to open its doors to customers for the first time in months, having resorted to delivery only for the lockdown. When it does, it plans on having people sit at these bumper tables. These are tables with an inflatable tube that surrounds each diner, ensuring that, even if diners wheel their tables to be closer to each other, they will always be 2m apart. Genius. This has the added benefit of being very similar to bumper cars.
Image: Fish Tale
On brand mannequins
The Inn at Little Washington, in Virginia, USA is planning to reopen at the end of the month. Head chef, Patrick O’Connell, was concerned the place would be bare with the limit of 50% capacity. Having always had a thing for mannequins, he decided this was the way forward and has worked with a local theatre to acquire and style some that fit in with the restaurant's decor.
The silent guests will be dressed in 40s style clothes and be served wine, as if they were patrons, so it's not too creepy having them there. We are not sure the wine is going to cut it, really, but good effort.
Image: Inn in at Little Washington
Cardboard cutouts and background noise
Five Dock Dining, in Sydney, Australia, was committed to implementing social distancing guidelines, but they also wanted to make sure people were comfortable when they returned to the restaurant. We have all had that weird experience of being one of only a few tables in a place, and it's so awkwardly quiet that you're worried everyone can hear you speaking. Given the size of the place, owner Frank Angeletta, was very keen to avoid this.
To make the 10 diners he can have in at any one time feel comfortable, he has brought in cardboard cutouts of people to sit at empty tables and staged them, with drinks, as if they are having a conversation. To manage the eerie silence, he has made a tape of background noise to try to normalise things further. It may be that these comical offering are actually attracting people to the place, as they were fully booked on their first night open after lockdown. Bravo.
Image: James D. Morgan/Getty Images
Miniature greenhouse restaurants
Mediamatic Eten, in Amsterdam, has the luxury of space on the waterfront and has decided to take full advantage of that for their reopening. They have build little greenhouses along the waterfront, each with a table inside. This allows diners to be shielded from others while enjoying an amazing view of the river. They are served on boards by masked waiters, to keep social distancing as in place as possible. Definitely one to keep post lockdown?
Penguin Eat Shabu, in Thailand, has gone one step further, and created a physical barrier between guests. They have erected full scale, clear plastic barriers, partitioning their tables into separate cubicles. These block anything, including droplets, travelling from one diner to the next as they span from the surface of the table to about four inches overhead. Safety first, people.
What we believe has been a less successful attempt at something similar, is this small plastic barricade in Akita, Japan which, as you can see, is an exercise in going through the motions. C+, must do better.
When it comes to social distancing, one restaurant is absolutely nailing it. Bord för En, in Sweden, serves one customer per day. Their only table is in the middle of a field, albeit a very picturesque field, and all transactions, including the delivery of food, take place using a pulley system. Fully risk free dining.