If there's a hot emerging dining trend for 2020, it's the mannequin movement. Earlier this month Good Food reported the Washington DC area's only three-Michelin-starred restaurant would use shop mannequins to fill empty seats when the restaurant reopens on May 29.
Well, that clever idea – in response to social distancing requirements – from the owners at the Inn at Little Washington, has been picked up and run with on the other side of the world.
Where the Inn is dressing mannequins in period costume to bring some ambience to the dining room, in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius they are dressing restaurant-seated mannequins in the more contemporary outfits of local designers.
"We decided to reach out to our neighbours, fashion boutique stores, and invited them to use our empty tables to showcase their newest collections. The news spread, and well-known designers joined the project, which keeps gaining interest across the city," says Bernie Ter Braak, owner of Cosy restaurant in Vilnius.
A few dozen restaurants and cafes are already on board, with a European mannequin company providing the silent stars of the show free of charge. As well as a menu, diners are given a sheet with information and pricing for the outfits at neighbouring tables.
Around the world, hospitality operators are trialling different ways of separating customers. Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok has placed stuffed toy pandas through its dining room to distance customers. The cafe at Izu Shaboten Zoo, in Japan, is doing something similar with stuffed toy Capybaras. In Amsterdam, Mediamatic Eden restaurant seats customers in mini greenhouses.
Closer to home, Five Dock Dining on Great North Road is using cardboard cut-outs of diners to set the mood. "Although most of our patrons right now are 2D we are so thankful to those who have dined in and are planning to do so," the venue said on social media.