Could greenhouses, tents and pods be the new normal in post-lockdown dining?

How restaurants are adapting to social distancing

We’re a long way off from resuming intimate, candle-lit dinners, but while the cosy tables for two might have disappeared, restaurants and designers are coming up with some ingenious, social distancing-friendly solutions to help them reopen.

For now, this is the ‘new normal’ for dining out across the globe.

Dining pods

Photography: Willem Velthoven for Mediamatic Amsterdam

‘Serres Séparées’ is Amsterdam restaurant Mediamatic Eten’s answer to social distancing. Diners are cocooned in three-person glasshouses situated right next to the Amstel river, where they can enjoy a four-course vegan menu. Other restaurants are also exploring the possibility of installing individual pods that let people experience intimate dining with a distance.

Mannequins and cut-outs

The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia has seated mannequins at its tables
The Inn at Little Washington

Some venues are experimenting with ways of making spaces feel busier, and people less isolated while doing socially distanced dining. The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia has seated mannequins at its tables, while in Sydney, Five Dock Dining is using cardboard cut-outs and ambient ‘chatter’ played over the speakers to make its restaurant feel buzzier.

One-person restaurants

Bord för En translates to 'Table for One' - it's a one-person restaurant in the middle of a field
Courtesy Bord för En

Reducing the number of tables is given when it comes to keeping diners distanced. But in Sweden, a new pop-up restaurant called Bord för En is taking that to the extreme with its one available table, located in the middle of a field. And don’t expect waiters to be on hand for your order – food is delivered via a basket-and-rope system.

Social distancing outfits

Via Facebook

Other restaurants are experimenting with ways of maintaining two-metre distances by giving patrons socially distanced outfits – including hats with two-metre pool noodles attached, and rubber rings on wheels, worn around the waist. It might look ridiculous, but it reminds diners to give each other a wide berth.


Credit: Christophe Gernigon Studio

Plastic curtains across tables and glass partitions have been the answer for some busy restaurants – including Bangkok’s Penguin Eat Shabu Shabu – allowing diners to sit with one another without worrying about spreading the virus. Designer Christophe Gernigon has also designed a concept for a set of hanging face shields that protect people.

Robotic dining and bionic bartenders

The View at Duomo Townhouse hotel in Milan

Contact-free payment is a must, post-COVID-19, but some restaurants are taking this a step further and introducing robots. Seville’s La Gitana Loca has installed a robotic barman which can pull 600 pints an hour but if you’re after something with a bit more bite, Makr Shakr’s rooftop Milan bar on Piazza del Duomo is staffed by two bionic bartenders with a repertoire of over 10,1000 possible drinks combinations. Dedicated stations, which allow diners to order remotely via screens, are also likely to become more widespread in the wake of coronavirus.

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