As lockdowns around the world begin to ease, restaurants are facing down the difficult dilemma of how to re-open while keeping their customers safe.
Here are some of the most innovative initiatives…
1. Glass or plastic barriers
One option for many of the world’s restaurants is to erect transparent, plastic barriers between diners. These between-table barriers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mean you and your household can be somewhat separated from other diners.
One restaurant in Paris has gone a step further with 360-degree shields that resemble upturned plastic cups. We’re curious to know if there’s an echo.
2. Mannequin diners
Social distancing dictates leaving a certain number of tables customer-free, but that doesn’t mean they have to be vacant. Even post-coronavirus an empty restaurant can be a bit off-putting, and some eateries are filling the gaps with shop mannequins, dressed for the occasion.
In Cafe Livres in Germany, a bespectacled mannequin sits solemnly reading a newspaper; at the Kleinod Prunkstück cocktail bar in Vienna, one lies coquettishly across the bar; and at the three Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, a host of Forties-style mannequins sit in immaculate dinner jackets, flowing dresses, and ties.
Mannequins epitomise the uncanny valley, and time will tell whether diners appreciate an audience of blank plastic faces while chowing down their dessert.
3. Bright green dragons
Cute, cartoonish, and dazzlingly green – Bar-B-Q Plaza in Bangkok has come up with a more fun-focused solution to the ‘buffer table’ condundrum. Every out-of-commission seat has been marked with ‘X’, and each ‘X’ in turn with a large cardboard dragon, lending the place an almost Disney-like look.
If anything, they might be a little too charming, and overly enthusiastic toddlers should be kept on a very short leash.
4. Social distancing hats
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, it can be healthy not to take yourself too seriously. Cafe Rothe in Germany is helping punters see the funny side with an array of ‘social distancing hats’ – essentially two pool noodles strapped together – to help keep everyone at arm’s length. The hats have not been medically tested, but should at least help keep the message in mind.
We've updated our crowns to help with social distancing pic.twitter.com/E4oU9iKp9D— Burger King (@BurgerKingUK) May 22, 2020
Burger King have announced something similar, offering extremely broad paper hats in Germany meant to protect your personal bubble. More stretched sombreros than crowns, we give them full marks for ingenuity and zero for fashion.
5. Bumper tables
Maryland Bar, social distancing bumper tables. How much fun would bar fights be?!?! pic.twitter.com/RCiGqDKeXq— Charles Adams (@bigangrylaw) May 18, 2020
So much for controlling the customers, Fish Tales Bar and Grill in Maryland is trying to enforce social distancing by altering the tables themselves. The restaurant has unveiled so-called ‘bumper tables’ – wheeled platforms surrounded by inflated tubes, with customers safely ensconced at the centre.
The temptation to turn the tables into an impromptu game of dodgems is almost overpowering. For the sake of every glass of wine, we implore you to resist.