Restaurants figure cutout customers will help create ‘atmosphere’

Restaurant owner Frank Angeletta believes cardboard cutouts will make customers more comfortable.

Restaurant owner Frank Angeletta believes cardboard cutouts will make customers more comfortable. Photo: Getty

An upmarket Sydney restaurant has found a unique way to maintain social distance and ambience as lockdown restrictions begin to lift.

Bound by New South Wales rules limiting capacity to a maximum of ten patrons, restaurateurs looking to reopen are getting crafty.

Five Dock Dining owner Frank Angeletta will use cardboard customers to fill the empty space in his restaurant in an attempt to make diners feel more comfortable and approximate a regular dining experience.

Perhaps taking his cue from the German soccer club that will fit out its stadium with cutouts for the resumption of the league this weekend, the “customers” will be accompanied by taped background noise simulating guest “chatter” playing for ambience.

It’s the culinary version of Nuketown USA, and Sydneysiders are getting the first taste. Photo: Getty

Mr Angeletta knows he has his work, er, cut out for him, so to speak.

“Hopefully it pays off,” he told 7News, as he looks to provide some stiff competition for the surrounding establishments.

It seems the eatery is off to a good start, with reservations filling for 18 guests across two sittings.

This follows the NSW state government’s decision to relax COVID-19 restrictions, allowing some venues to reopen with social distancing measures in place.

From Friday, cafes, restaurants and hotel dining areas are allowed to reopen but there must be at least four square metres of space per person.

Real customers are so 2019, dummy…

Over in the US, one of the most renowned restaurants says mannequins will add a touch of whimsy and help with social distancing when customers return to its grand dining room later this month.

Mannequins dressed in fine 1940’s-style attire were already theatrically staged Thursday (local time) at The Inn at Little Washington, tucked in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains about 90 minutes west of Washington.

Don’t ask them to pass the salt … mannequins will occupy tables at The Inn at Little Washington. Photo: Getty 

Although business restrictions are set to begin easing in some parts of Virginia on Friday, restaurants can only serve dine-in customers in an outdoor space. The three-Michelin-star restaurant has opted to wait until May 29 to resume dining service indoors.

“When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant’s occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious – fill it with interestingly dressed dummies,” chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell said in a statement.

Expanding on the dining for dummies theme, Mr O’Connell believes the tactic will “allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops.”

“We’re all craving to gather and see other people right now. They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.”

-with agencies

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