Did you ever think you'd one day share a restaurant with a bunch of mannequins?
What about heading out for a romantic night with your significant other... in a mini greenhouse?
No. We didn’t either. But that’s where we are in 2020, and the creative methods adopted by the hospitality industry for social distancing, cleanliness and government compliance show no signs of slowing.
It has, so far, been an incredibly challenging year for this industry - there’s no denying that. And there are tough times ahead, too. But if the following examples of creativity during the worst of times proves anything, it’s that this is an industry which can still raise a smile.
Why are restaurants doing this?
There are two reasons you’re about to see some of the best examples of dealing with COVID-related restrictions in hospitality:
- there’s no choice - these rules have to be followed for the safety of customers and staff; and
- it brings in business.
Let’s not beat around the bush. What you’re about to see are both safety precautions and marketing tactics.
We think they’re brilliant. But what’s your favourite?
1. Hello, Mrs Mannequin
One of the most challenging elements of social distancing for hospitality businesses is... well, the distancing itself.
For many bars, restaurants and pubs, it has resulted in moving tables and chairs to facilitate a two-meter distance between parties.
As it turns out, there’s another option: mannequins. In Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius, the owners of Augustas And Barbora have decided to place mannequins at every other table to create space.
The result? An increased sense of busyness and no need to shift tables around. Creepy? Maybe. Although it seems to be catching, because there are countless examples of mannequin diners popping up in restaurants throughout the world.
2. Mind my rubber tube
How do you force guests to maintain two meter distances? You place them inside rubber rings, of course.
That’s exactly what visitors to The Fish Tales Bar & Grill can expect when they enter the popular restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland.
Whether or not the distance is technically two-meters is open to debate, but no one can fault the ingenuity here - or the clear play for social media attention and virality. And why not?
3. Come into my (tiny) greenhouse
Most news stories are referring to them as ‘small glass cabins’, but let’s not beat around the bush - these are tiny greenhouses.
Dutch restaurant, Mediamatic ETEN, has responded to COVID-19 safety regulations by erecting these little cocooned dining areas for guests, and it’s drawing in quite a crowd.
They’re certainly intimate, and you wouldn’t want to be in them at the height of summer, but they do result in plenty of social distancing and Insta-worthy snaps.
4. Safe conversing, thanks to glass partitions
Once again, we never thought we’d need to rely on glass partitions to facilitate ‘safe conversing’, but that’s exactly what one Spanish restaurant has decided to do in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
There will of course be some debate as to whether this negates the need to move tables around (although, arguably, it doesn't), but it certainly enables guests to laugh, talk energetically, sing or shout enthusiastically about their meals.
The only worry is how invisible they appear to be at first glance; just make sure you don’t attempt to clink glasses during your meal!
5. A softer take on the mannequin idea
If mannequins really are a bit too creepy for your liking, you might like what Beef’n Beer Manager, Musa Gezer, has done to space out his tables in Hofheim, Germany.
Instead of plastic people, Gezer has opted for large cuddly teddy bears (although don’t cuddle them - please) as his fake diners. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'teddy bears’ picnic’.
Takeout innovations that have risen from COVID-19
Although not quite as likely to raise a wry smile, some of the creative takeaway innovations are also worthy of a mention in this blog post.
Restaurants, bars, hotels and pubs which have never, until now, even considered providing takeaway meals have had to make a significant about turn.
The result? Some brilliant takeaway ideas which might inspire your own plans.
Here are three of our favourites
1. Coronavirus specials
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the general feeling around coronavirus and lockdown; lockdown lunches, stay-at-home specials and social distancing desserts are just some takeaway ideas you could jump on.
2. Meal kits
What about the people who want to cook at home? Rather than a fully prepared takeout, why not send them the ingredients and expert guidance from your chef on whipping up a feast?
3. Deliver the undeliverable
Fancy a challenge and a way to swing the spotlight on what your venue’s doing in 2020? Offer unconventional takeaways which people assume can’t be delivered. Who says you can package up Hors D'oeuvres and send them to someone’s front door?
2020 will be remembered for many reasons, but it has been genuinely wonderful to see the innovative ways in which the hospitality industry as responded.