The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we do almost everything. From our social lives, to work lives, and home lives, nothing is exactly how it was.
Most of these changes have become second nature: washing our hands more frequently, wearing masks in public, and standing 6 feet away from people are a few of the expected trends that don’t seem out of the ordinary. But, there are a few trends, particularly when it comes to the restaurant industry, that are a bit more eccentric. Let’s take a look at some of these newly-found quirky customs.
1. Dining with mannequins
In an effort to enforce social distancing guidelines, some restaurants have turned to a rather static solution. Picture this: You’re overjoyed to be going out to a restaurant again, yet as you enter, you are a bit confused at the scene before you. It seems as though every table is full, even those that aren’t spaced 6 feet apart. But, as the host guides you through the dining room and to your table, you realize that half of the customers aren’t moving. Well, that’s because they’re not people at all, they are mannequins. According to Forbes, one restaurant in Virginia took the mannequin act so far that they asked their servers to place cocktails in front of the formally dressed plastic figures and engage them in chit chat. Genius or just downright crazy?
2. Dining with stuffed animals
Following the same trend as mannequins, Thailand restaurant Maison Saigon, with hopes to make their half-empty dining room look more full and playful, decided to sit stuffed panda bears at empty seats. This idea went over surprisingly well with diners. One customer even stated that sitting next to a panda bear helped ease his mind on his first outing into a restaurant post-shutdown, and another customer said it made her feel less lonely.
A cafe at a zoo in Japan came up with their version of this by placing stuffed capybaras in empty seats. For those of you that don’t know what a capybara looks like, picture an oversized hamster with a huge head. Try not to laugh hysterically when eating lunch next to one of those. I have to admit that sitting next to a stuffed animal would be a lot less creepy than sitting down next to a table full of mannequins, even if the stuffed animal did look like a gigantic rodent.
3. Oversized “hats”
To help keep customers socially distanced, some restaurants are turning to hats with wide brims made with unusual items that jut out to create the recommended 6-foot radius. For example, a cafe in Germany took straw hats and fastened pool noodles to the top of them, enforcing their customers to wear them and therefore stay far enough away from each other.
Fast food chain Burger King created social distancing versions of their famous crowns, which are essentially a large number of the normal-sized crowns glued together. While the oversized hat idea may get your restaurant some media attention, I can’t say that as a customer I’d enjoy my meal while wearing one.
4. Bumper bar
A restaurant in Ocean City, Md., is using an unusual wearable table as a way to ensure social distancing. Fish Tales Bar & Grill bought bumper-style tables that are meant to look like vintage records. The customer stands in the middle of them, and can easily move around thanks to the wheels attached to the bottom of each leg. But, if they get too close to another customer, they’ll gently bump into each other, reminding them to keep 6 feet apart.
The tables are the invention of Event Revolution, an events company that has pivoted their business plan to create fun and useful products to help venues adhere to new strict guidelines. I see some bumper-themed events in our future for sure.
5. Greenhouse dining
This one is for all you gardening fanatics out there. Mediamatic ETEN, a waterfront restaurant located in Amsterdam, has built individual-sized greenhouses around each of their outdoor tables. Each greenhouse is numbered and can fit a table of two comfortably inside. There is a door that you can open when your server approaches and close when not needed.
The greenhouses are made from see-through plexiglass so views are unobstructed, and an added benefit is it keeps the insects out. This is by far my favorite weird COVID-related restaurant trend so far. It not only keeps you safe, but it also adds more privacy and an element of whimsy.
From pool noodle hats to private greenhouse tables for two, COVID-19 safety guidelines have certainly forced us to spark up our creative sides. I’m not saying that all of these weird ideas are necessarily good ones, but they at least help to enforce safe dining. Whatever your reopening plans may be, the bottom line is to make sure they help to ensure the well-being of your employees and your customers.
The whole hospitality industry is in a tough time right now, but we are coming together to support one another until the storm passes. As people hunker down in their homes for the next indefinite period of time, look at these ideas for inspiration to bring joy to your loyal customers and provide work for your employees. To stay up to date on our latest recommendations for event professionals during this time, click here for our latest blog posts, check out our Two Chicks, Three Seats podcast, and view the recordings of our weekly Social Hour virtual roundtables.