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IN PICS | Bumper tables, fake patrons: what eating out looks like post-lockdown

Groups of friends have dinner in a so-called 'quarantine greenhouse' in Amsterdam.
Groups of friends have dinner in a so-called 'quarantine greenhouse' in Amsterdam.
Image: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/AFP

As Mzansi looks forward to the "thrill" of being able to collect takeaways in person again, restaurant owners in other parts of the world have been brainstorming ways to factor social distancing into the eat-in dining experience.

Here are some of the stranger concepts being tried out across the world:


A vegan restaurant in Amsterdam called Mediamatic Eten has installed five "quarantine greenhouses" at its canal-side property, in which up to three people - who already live in the same house - can enjoy a four-course meal.

Waiters wear gloves and face shields and pass the dishes into the private dining areas called Serres Séparées ("separate rooms" in French) on long boards so they don’t have to physically enter.

The pods - for now a trial run for friends and family of the restaurant staff - are fully booked until the end of June. The owners still need to obtain permission from local and national authorities to officially open to the public.


Fish Tales in Ocean City, Maryland, US, has installed "bumper tables" to keep people apart. Surrounded by a huge inner tube, each table is on wheels and accommodates only one person (in the centre) - so it’s basically a bumper car with food. 


A restaurant in Schwerin, Germany, celebrated its reopening by having customers wear hats topped with pool noodles, helicopter-style, to help them judge just how far away they were from everyone else.

The owner of Cafe Rothe, Jaqueline Rothe, said it was done in the name of fun but also showed how difficult it is to keep a distance of 1.5m. 

Heute mal so ,, Abstandsnachvermessung“

Posted by Cafe & Konditorei Rothe on Saturday, May 9, 2020


The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia, US, has blocked out its “extra” seats with mannequins. But not just any mannequins - these have been dressed up in fancy outfits from the 1940s. They not only demarcate where people may not sit, but also hint at their own stories. One male, for example, is on bended knee proposing to his girlfriend.

Chef-owner Patrick O’Connell worked with a local theatre company to inject some drama into the scene. He said the idea was that human diners wouldn't feel lonely, even if they were first to arrive at the restaurant.

It was similar thinking that led Five Dock Dining, a restaurant in Sydney, Australia, to place cardboard cutouts of people at its empty tables. Sydney restaurants for now are allowed a maximum of 10 guests. "Chatter" will also play on the speakers to help people feel like they’re not eating in an empty restaurant.