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Seven unusual approaches to social distancing in restaurants

One-table restaurant in a field with washing line service, Sweden

Image: Bord för En

One of the first original restaurant concepts to be reported was Sweden’s Bord för En (table for one in English), which opened this month.

The concept is the brainchild of Linda Karlsson and Rasmus Persson, the restaurant is located in a the middle of a field in Värmland. Three-course meals are delivered to diners in a basket suspended on a washing line linked to the kitchen window.

Only one party is allowed per day, either as individual guests or a group consisting of members of the same household.

A drinks menu has been curated by Joel Söderbäck, founder of Linje Tio (now called Tjoget), which featured in the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bars list.

Guests pay what they want for the meal. Dishes are left in a container, and are washed twice after use, while the table and chairs are sanitised before the next party arrives.

Bord för En is located a short walk from the Hembygsgården bus stop. A rope has been laid down to guide diners to the field.

Pool noodle dining, Germany

Image: Cafe & Konditorei Rothe

A café in Schwerin in Germany has taken an amusing approach to social distancing enforcement, requiring customers to wear a pool noodle hat.

Cafe & Konditorei Rothe, located in the north-east of the country, posted a picture on Facebook of the novel concept.

Owner Jacqueline Rothe told Euronews that the site had reopened after being shut for six weeks.

The hats were apparently brought by German television station, RTL, who interviewed the café owner.

“They brought us huge hats and that was super cool. The initiative was so great – keeping social distancing is the most important thing,” she told Euronews.



Quarantine greenhouses, The Netherlands

Image: Willem Velthoven, Mediamatic Amsterdam

Waterfront vegan restaurant and bar Mediamatic ETEN is to offer diners a plant-based four-course menu served in individual “quarantine greenhouses”.

Meals will be deposited into each structure on a wooden plank by staff wearing protective gear.

Customers at Mediamatic ETEN can pick a date and a time slot, either from 6pm to 8:30pm or from 8:30pm to 11pm, for a table for two. The greenhouses have space for a maximum of three people. Tables of three are charged an extra €40 at the door, while those wishing to dine alone will be offered a €40 discount on the price paid.

Michelin-star mannequins, USA

Image: Inn at Little Washington

The Inn at Little Washington has taken a novel approach to social distancing. The three-Michelin starred restaurant decided to use mannequins dressed in 1940s-themed outfits to aid social distancing.

Chef Patrick O’Connell told The Washingtonian that instead of leaving empty tables, he would fill them with life-size mannequins dressed in period costumes supplied by the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

According to the publication, waiting staff have been told to interact with the mannequins, including pouring them wine and asking about their evening.

The restaurant, which also has 23 bedrooms, was set to open on 15 May, but due to updated guidelines, it now plans to delay this until 29 May.

Masks with a difference, Israel

Photo credit: BBC/Youtube

A team in Israel have constructed a mask with a remote control mouth that lets diners eat food without removing their protective facial covering.

Using a cable-operated mechanism connected to a lever, the mask’s ‘mouth’ can be opened and closed by the diner.

The inventors, Avtipus Patents and Inventions, say this could reduce the risk of contracting or passing on coronavirus when visiting a restaurant.

Crucially, this simple mechanism would allow people to eat without taking off their mask, which could reduce the risk of contracting or passing on the virus when visiting a restaurant.

You can watch the full video of the mouth in action here. 

Designer dining ‘lampshades’, France

Image: Christophe Gernigon

French designer Christophe Gernigon has developed a range of plexiglass hoods which can be suspended over diners as they eat.

Called Plex’eat, the lampshade-shaped covers form a screen around diners, providing a see-through barrier around each individual.

The hoods measure 80x70cm, although Gernigon said he could develop other models large enough for families and couples to sit under.

He told Dezeen: “I imagined, during my nocturnal creative wanderings of these months of confinement, a new way of welcoming customers of bars and restaurants in search of outings.

“Though we would have preferred not to arrive at this point, it is better to consider aesthetic, design and elegant alternatives that guarantee the rules of social distancing.”

Pandering to social distancing, Thailand

Image: Maison Saigon

From period mannequins to stuffed pandas, Vietnamese eatery Maison Saigon in Bangkok is seating toy bears at tables so diners won’t feel lonely sitting by themselves. .

The restaurant reopened after Thailand relaxed its lockdown laws earlier this month. Social distancing measures, however, remain in place.

In order to better conform with the new requirements, toy pandas are now placed at every table at Maison Saigon to help keep diners separated from each other.

Speaking to Reuters, Maison Saigon owner Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul, said: “Earlier we had only one chair for the tables where the customer came alone. But for me, it felt strange, so I thought I’d give them some company.”

The move has been welcomed by customers, who have praised the restaurant for providing a fun and safe way to navigate the space and know where to sit.

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