As businesses begin to explore how to re-open responsibly, they’re faced with the challenge of how to keep customers safe. In grocery stores, we’re seeing measures that include mandatory masks, markers on floors to encourage distancing at check out, and a limited amount of customers admitted at once. Some restaurants have operated strictly on take-out or delivery options. However, as governors begin to lift restrictions, American restaurants must figure out how to have an eat-in dining experience that can maintain social distancing. In Sweden, caution tape has been used to mark out-of-bounds seating. Some restaurants might remove tables to create the needed space. However, one Virginia eatery has a unique plan: mannequins.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has announced that restaurants can re-open on May 29, but only at 50% capacity. Caution tape just won’t due for the swanky aesthetic of the luxurious three-Michelin-star Inn at Little Washington, which DC Eater notes is “famous for show-stopping presentations of its haute American tasting menus.”
As such, Washingtonian’s Ann Limpert reports chef Patrick O’Connell opted for a more chic (and strange) approach:
Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the whimsical chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins. That’s right, life-size human dolls—kind of like that scene in Home Alone when Kevin throws a mannequin holiday party to fool the burglars. The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb. Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.
The playful plan may be odd, but it’s getting the re-opening of the Inn at Little Washington plenty of free publicity and possibly an unexpected new breed of clientele.
Meet your dining companions… pic.twitter.com/J9ezrmgHx6— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) May 12, 2020
The Inn at Little Washington, a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant that charges $250/person before drinks and tip, is filling their dining room with mannequins to make it feel less lonely when they re-open at reduced capacity. https://t.co/Fei2tPWxHg pic.twitter.com/ZKrYppSfpK— Danielle Alberti (@DanielleAlberti) May 13, 2020
these costumed mannequins staged in the inn at little washington dining room remind me of a doctor who episode I’ve never seen https://t.co/Wfk6Chs23W— Tejal Rao (@tejalrao) May 12, 2020
Oh f*ck that. For a variety of reasons. https://t.co/ATqfezEfZv— Jeff VanderMeer (@jeffvandermeer) May 13, 2020
Extremely my shit: Michelin-starred restaurant will seat 1940s-era mannequins at half of its tables to comply with social distancing guidelines.https://t.co/b4VjRnf8ko— Mary South (@marysouth) May 13, 2020
One person’s “less awkward” is another person’s “creepy AF”: https://t.co/3MuyRzjoD7— Tammy Gordon (@tammy) May 12, 2020
I was lucky enough to finally visit/dine at The Inn at Little Washington shortly before everything went to hell and I wish it great success but this is some serious I Am Legend nonsense https://t.co/oPrU5XOJFB— Fiddler (@cFidd) May 13, 2020
This fucking rules. I hope they play music from The Shining while you eat. https://t.co/JL7NbR5ypV— MagnetCarta (@MagnetCarta) May 13, 2020
terrified about eating out, but wanting to start your life again; sitting in a room surrounded by still, lifeless dolls, eating soup; your stomach clenches. they're looking at you. they're all looking at you. and you can no longer move.— Zack Handlen (@zhandlen) May 13, 2020
this is normal now https://t.co/bpVLSPx6di
It might even spark a trend.
Mannequins might be a bit too highbrow for us. But if anyone has any gently used sanitized blow up dolls to give away, we’ll take them https://t.co/NkKZBXX3Iv— The Queen Vic (@queenvicdc) May 13, 2020
Header Image Source: Inn at Little Washington