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The future of restaurants? The weird and wonderful social distancing innovations restaurants are trying


by Megan Burns
18th May 2020
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With restaurants being allowed to reopen in several countries, albeit with strict social distancing restrictions, there have been some creative solutions to keeping diners apart. 


If you can remember the last meal you had in a restaurant before the Covid-19 restrictions were in place, there are probably plenty of things that come to mind. Maybe how delicious your meal was, maybe the great chat you had with whoever you were with, or the great service. What you probably don’t remember, though, is being 2 metres apart from any other customers, as most restaurants pack customers in tightly.

This has been an issue for restaurants that have been allowed to reopen in various countries, as they now must keep diners apart to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, some have devised weird and wonderful solutions to this problem. Whether they’ll all catch on, we’re not sure.

Pool noodle hats

As restrictions were eased in Germany, restaurants have been allowed to reopen to customers, although they are required to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between people. Cafe & Konditorei Rothe in Schwerin, Germany posted a photo of their particular solution to this issue.

Diners were given straw hats with three foam pool noodles attached to the top, to let people know if they were getting too close to each other. Perhaps not scientifically foolproof, but it gives a nice visual to remind people of how far apart they should be staying.

Individual greenhouses

Mediamatic ETEN restaurant in Amsterdam has come up with a solution to keeping customers apart, but in a way that simply feels like a fun dining experience rather than a response to a pandemic.

You can book a table in one of their five greenhouses, set beside the water and lit up by string lights at night. The glass ensures a barrier between tables, as well as making your meal feel particularly intimate. The restaurant has announced that the tables are completely booked out at the moment, so clearly this idea appeals to customers.

Mannequin diners

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In a somewhat creepy move, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia has come up with the idea of filling empty seats with well-dressed mannequins.

The three Michelin-star restaurant’s strange idea is in response to new restrictions in the state that their seating capacity must be reduced by 50 per cent, but they didn’t want the space to feel empty.

Customers will be able to join the mannequins from May 29 when restrictions ease in the state, and it has been reported that waiters will also serve the mannequins to make the experience more realistic.

Shields between diners

Paris-based designer Christophe Gernigon has come up with these plastic screens that can be suspended from the ceiling to separate diners, but still allow them to see and talk to each other. They also wouldn’t disrupt the interiors of a restaurant too much, feeling more similar to an elaborate light fitting than a medical shield.

“I imagined, during the nocturnal creative wanderings of these months of confinement, a new way of welcoming customers of bars and restaurants in search of outings,” Gernigon says on his website. This idea is just a concept for now, but it will be interesting to see if any social distancing restaurants are interested in his invention as they reopen.

Featured image: Anne Lakeman


Read more: Esther O’Moore Donohoe: I wanted hugs, I wanted friends and family. I wanted a McFlurry and a 3 in 1

Read more: Covid Creatives: Meet the female street artists behind the inspiring Minaw Collective

Read more: Funerals amid coronavirus: “We had no-one to hug us. My dad deserved so much more”

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