Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2023

As various parts of the world ease out of coronavirus lockdowns, restaurants are finding creative ways to ensure patrons feel safe while eating out during the coronavirus. Some eateries are getting creative in order to maintain social distancing between customers and staff. Others are just trying to bring some levity to a stressful situation.

For instance, Amsterdam’s Mediamatic Eten is servicing customers in a wholly different way than it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The fine-dining restaurant has added five “quarantine greenhouses” to its outdoor patio area. Two people can sit in each of the glass structures, which the restaurant calls “serres séparées” — a play on the phrase “chambre séparée,” which denotes a private room in a restaurant or bar.

Restaurants in Sweden took an entirely different approach to keep within new restrictions. Stedsans in the Woods, for example, already had outdoor seating, but in response to the coronavirus, it built two-person benches for pairs of diners to share. The restaurant also added plexiglass partitions to its communal tables to serve as “sneezing fences” between groups.

Another Swedish restaurant, Bord För En, only just opened, and it might offer the safest options for eating out during the coronavirus. It features a single table with a single chair, positioned in the middle of a field 50 yards away from the house where the food is cooked. The chef uses a basket hanging from a rope connected to the kitchen window to send a three-course meal to the table. Guests decide for themselves what they want to pay for the meal, and after they leave, the restaurant owners wait six hours before sanitizing the chair and table.

In Virginia, restaurants can only be at 50 percent capacity, which is what prompted The Inn at Little Washington to fill half of its restaurant with finely-dressed mannequins. The restaurant won’t begin serving customers in-house again until May 29, but it has already shared photos of the mannequins on its social media accounts. They’re dressed in a 1940s style, and D.C.’s Design Foundry and Signature Theatre provided the costumes and makeup.

We’ll have to wait and see whether these clever solutions for social distancing will actually motivate people to eat out, but in any case, it’s been very enjoyable to see how restaurants adapt to these strange new conditions.

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