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5 Weirdest Ways Restaurants Are Forcing You to Social Distance

Eating establishments are going to great lengths to get patrons back into their dining rooms.

Restaurant owners are beyond eager to get patrons back into their dining rooms and restart the revenue engine that will keep their business running. Yet the CDC's recently issued guidelines are remarkably prescriptive in how specifically eating establishments can reopen, especially regarding ongoing social distancing guidelines to keep diners and staffers safe.

There's no question that restaurants are reeling from the economic disaster that's come from the coronavirus pandemic. While some have pivoted to delivery and take out, the vast majority of independent and even national restaurant chains are in dire straits. There is a real need to get diners back in their place of business, but how to do it with social distancing?

Well necessity is the mother of invention, so we shouldn't be surprised that the creative and out-of-the-box thinking to launch a successful restaurant is leading to some really creative and, well, unique, solutions to social distancing.

1. The Plex'Eat! Having a plexiglass bubble cover your seat.

This concept advanced by Frenc interior designer Christophe Gernigon, who is at the origin of the project, called Plex'Eat. "I was worried about the restaurateurs. I then thought of a device that would allow us to find conviviality around a table but without taking any risks, "he explained to French outlet CNews. Gernigon reportedly got the idea came "from an armchair discovered in a concept store in Asia, overhung by a bell, which allowed you to listen to music quietly." Take a look at the awesomely weird (or weirdly awesome) design below?:


2. Booze bumpers?

Yes, booze bumpers! Fish Tales Bar & Grill is a popular bar in Maryland is using some bumper-style tables on wheels to ensure that customers employ proper social distancing and stay six-feet apart from other patrons enjoying a libation. Do the customers look sort of ridiculous wearing the bumper table? Maybe, but it likely doesn't matter if these guys are enjoying a cold one outdoors with their buddies. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

3. Filling tables with inflatable dolls?

Using yellow caution tape to block off dining tables didn't appeal to the owner of South Carolina restaurant Open Hearth, but she still wanted to keep her customers separated. "I dread putting that yellow tape across the booths and making everybody think that this is a condemned restaurant or that things are in bad shape," Paula Starr Melehes told a local television station. So what did she do? She installed inflatable dolls at several booths across her dining room. Kind of creepy? Maybe, but no less creepy that crime scene tape!

4. Eating in tiny, enclosed, glass houses?

While eating outside appears to be a sure-fire way to abate the spread of the virus, one Dutch restaurant is taking it a step further by implementing "small glass cabins built for two or three people, creating intimate cocoons on a public patio."  According to Reuters:

Waiters wear gloves and transparent face shields, and use a long board to bring dishes into the glass cabins to ensure minimal physical contact with customers.

While the concept is currently being trialed only for family and friends of staff from the ETEN restaurant, which is part of the Mediamatic arts centre, it certainly looks glamorous, as diners enjoy candle-lit meals with a waterside view.

"It's super-cosy, it's really cosy, it's nice and the food is delicious," said Janita Vermeulen, who was invited to a trial dinner with her roommate.

5. Populating empty tables with mannequins

The Inn at Little Washington is dealing with socially distanced and sparse dining rooms by adding mannequin diners at adjacent empty tables. The upside to this strategy is that it approximates a crowded and joyful dining room. The downside? It's creepy as hell.

Take a look:

These may be strange and drastic measures, but when you consider the surprising ways a restaurant's survival affects its neighborhood, they start to make sense as a last-ditch effort to keep customers coming in. For more on the future of ding out, check out these 8 new things you'll see as restaurants reopen.

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