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The Weirdest Things Restaurants Are Doing to Bring You Back

These are some, uh, inventive strategies to try to attract diners post-lockdown.
restaurant interior

It takes creative and out-of-the-box thinking to launch a successful restaurant that stands out from a crowded and competitive field. So, it should come as no surprise that, as the world wakes from the coronavirus lockdown, there are some, well, really out-of-the-box ideas designed to keep everyone safe at eating establishments and draw patrons back into the fold.

There's no question that restaurant 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. Only four national fast-food chains reported profits in the first quarter of this year due to the pandemic, and many independent restaurants won't survive unless people return… and soon.

Restaurant owners have a dire need to get people back into their eateries, and since necessity is the mother of invention, we shouldn't be surprised by the following concepts being considered to improve a dining experience.

1. Populating empty tables with mannequins

Take, for example, the Inn at Little Washington, which 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:

2. Eating in tiny, enclosed, glass houses

While eating al fresco appears to be a sure-fire way to abate the spread of the virus, one Dutch restaurant is taking it a step further. They have implemented "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.

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3. Having glass surround you at your seat.

Not to be outdone is 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?:

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.


Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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