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All the, Uh, Creative Ways Restaurants Are Enforcing Social Distancing

From mannequins to stuffed animals to pool noodles you wear on your head, here’s how restaurants are keeping customers away from each other

A man and a woman sit at a restaurant table, each under their own plastic shield that encases their vodies. AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

As the majority of U.S. states and several countries worldwide cautiously (or not!) reopen their doors to customers, one rule seems to prevail regardless of culture or custom: maintaining a safe social distance between employees and guests whenever possible. As restaurant owners are a creative and scrappy lot, ways to enforce that are also getting, shall we say, creative. Let’s take a look:

Human-shaped objects

Male- and female-presenting mannequins in suits and dresses sit a restaurant tables. Courtesy of the Inn at Little Washington

As Eater DC reported, Virginia’s three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington is enforcing social distancing by plopping well-dressed mannequins into empty seats, which is definitely not creepy — or reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s “The After Hours” — at all.

Female-presenting mannequin seating at a cafe table holding a newspaper. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

At Cafe Livres in Essen, Germany, at least a half-dozen mannequins, borrowed from a local theater group, are placed around the cafe. Pictured above is one such specimen probably thinking to itself, “When did the news get to be so bleak?”

Mannequin in a suit sitting on a banquette in a bar. On the bar itself sits a female mannequin. Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

To dissuade people from gathering at the bar, this Vienna bar placed a mannequin on top of the bar itself in addition to strategically around the table seating. Dinner and a show, just marvelous.

Mannequins dressed in evening gowns, hats, and festive attire placed all over a restaurant interior. Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, at this restaurant in Vilnius, Lithuania, the inanimate diners look like they just stepped off the runways of Fashion Week.

Cardboard cutouts sit at different restaurant tables. James D. Morgan/Getty Images

At Five Dock Dining in New South Wales, Australia, cardboard cutouts in the shape of humans are put in place to make diners “feel more comfortable” (as is pumped-in “background noise” that creates more of a din than the city’s imposed 10-guest seating limit. “The cutouts and background noise are a bit eerie when you first walk in,” owner Frank Angeletta told Australia’s 7 News. “But once you’re sitting down it’s a bit of fun.” A reminder that we all have different definitions of the word “fun”!

Speaking of fun, how about these blow-up dolls that South Carolina restaurant Open Hearth is using? Before you get any funny ideas, just know that these are “the G-rated kind” of inflatable dolls, the restaurant owners clarified to WYFF News 4.

Non-human shaped objects

Customers sit next to large green cartoon dragon dolls at restaurant tables. AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

Okay now we’re talking. Speaking on behalf of all of Eater, I am very here for these cardboard cartoon dragons at a restaurant in Bangkok, where coronavirus restrictions were eased in late April.

Customers of the Maison Saigon restaurant sit next to stuffed panda dolls. AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

Even cuter! Customers at the Maison Saigon restaurant in Bangkok are seated alongside stuffed pandas to remind them of social distancing. Hope these hard-working pandas at least get some fake bamboo for their efforts.

Japan’s Izu Shaboten Zoo, famous for its hot spring filled with capybaras enjoying the hot tub life, definitely stayed on brand when it came to picking which adorable stuffed animal would occupy its cafe seating.

Literal barriers

Diners sit at restaurant tables outside that are under clear “tents.” Bernd Thissen/picture alliance via Getty Images

At this German brasserie, each party of guests is sheltered under its own “greenhouse,” an innovation that is both romantic and practical during inclement weather.

A man and a woman sit at a restaurant table, each under their own plastic shield that encases their vodies. AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Some Paris restaurants are apparently investing in “lampshade-like plastic shields” to ensconce each patron in their own Get Smart-like cone of silence.

Woman wears mask behind a bar. In the front of the bar are two screens made of plastic and piping. AP/Rich Pedroncelli via Getty images

A touch more makeshift are these barriers between patrons at Powell’s Steamer Co. & Pub in Placerville, California. Whatever works!

Woman seated at an outside restaurant table behind a large seat of plexiglass. Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This restaurant in Rome also embraced barriers, in the form of plexiglass panels placed between tables. In major cities where restaurants are already tight on real estate, I would frankly embrace permanent barriers between crammed-together tables even in the best of times — anything for some thin veneer of privacy!

People sitting across restaurant tables from each other, separated by a sheet of plexiglass Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

Goga Cafe in Milan, Italy, went one step further by installing plexiglass barriers not only between tables, but also between dining companions. No sharing a single strand of spaghetti until your lips inadvertently meet in a kiss here, folks!

People at restaurant tables sit surrounded by makeshift shields made from plastic piping and plastic wrap. Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This shabu-shabu restaurant in Bangkok took a similar approach, using contraptions that look even easier to DIY with some pipes, sheets of plastic, and a little elbow grease.

Objects to wear on one’s person

In Ocean City, Maryland, seaside restaurant Fish Tales ordered 10 “bumper tables” to use when dine-in service begins again. Customers will get their own wheeled inner-tube tables to roll around and socialize in at a distance of six feet from each other. Would not recommend ramming into each other’s bumper tables at high speeds while eating or drinking.

Heute mal so ,, Abstandsnachvermessung“

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

At Cafe Rothe in Germany, where some coronavirus restrictions on public life have been lifted, guests don pool noodle hats designed to keep distancing. In my non-expert opinion, this probably doesn’t seem like the best way to keep customers apart, as the restaurant owner herself admitted to CNN. Maybe add an inflatable raft to the headgear, too?