Restaurant uses mannequins to enforce social distancing

A three-Michelin starred restaurant in the US has decided to use mannequins dressed in 1940s-themed outfits to aid social distancing when it reopens.

Image: Inn at Little Washington

As reported by The Washingtonian and Eater Washington D.C., Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington has taken a novel approach to social distancing.

Chef Patrick O’Connell told The Washingtonian that instead of leaving empty tables, he intends to fill them with life-size mannequins dressed in period costumes supplied by the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

According to the publication, waiting staff have been told to interact with the mannequins, including pouring them wine and asking about their evening.

The restaurant, which also has 23 bedrooms, was set to open on 15 May, but due to updated guidelines, it now plans to delay this until 29 May.

O’Connell told the Washingtonian that staff have conducted deep cleans using infrared light in order to create a safe environment for diners.

He added: “I think it would do people a world of good to reduce their anxiety level when they come out to a place which is still unaffected, because if you watch your television, you think that there isn’t such a place under a bubble.”

The restaurant, a former garage, first opened its doors in 1978 and offered accommodation from 1984. Now part of the Relais & Châteaux hotel group, the restaurant under the helm of self-taught chef O’Connell received the coveted three-Michelin star accolade in 2018.

The Michelin-starred eatery’s interiors are the work of London stage and set designer Joyce Evans, who is quoted on the restaurant’s website as saying: “Why use one William Morris print in a room when five will do”.

News of the Inn at Little Washington’s mysterious mannequins follows reports of other unusual approaches to social distancing.

As reported earlier this week, a restaurant in Amsterdam is to trial a new safe dining concept, which will see customers sat in individual greenhouses with meals slid into each structure on a wooden plank. Meanwhile, in Sweden, a one-table restaurant in a field, where meals are delivered in a basket on a washing line, opened this month. 

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