Food and Drink

Dining with Stuffed Pandas – The New Normal?

From shower curtains to cuddly capybaras, restaurants and coffee shops around the world are using creative ways to ensure diners keep their distance.

Across the globe, establishments are beginning to reopen, implementing strict guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests and staff members. With many operating at just 50% capacity or less, they face the same challenge – how to ensure people are keeping a safe distance from one another, whilst making a half empty bar look inviting? Here are some of our favourite tactics for socially distant socialising: 

Cuddly capybaras  

A café at Izu Shaboten Zoo in Japan has filled its seats with huge stuffed capybaras to encourage diners to practice social distancing. The cuddly toys are seated at the café’s tables, meaning diners are forced to sit further apart from one another and therefore maintain a safe, two metre distance. 

Stuffed pandas 

Another place opting to fill its seats with loveable guests, is Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Japan. The owner told Reuters that when it first reopened, he originally placed one chair at each table but this made the room feel empty. In a bid to keep lonely diners company whilst promoting social distancing, he placed stuffed panda bears around the restaurant.  

Shower curtains 

Francini Café De Colombia, a café in Worcestershire, has come up with a novel way to protect customers – using shower curtains. The café’s owner, Francini Osorio, has fitted over 30 of the clear plastic screens between tables in order to create an environment that “keeps people together, but separated” once reopen. 

Glass greenhouses 

Mediamatic Eten, the restaurant at an arts centre in Amsterdam, is trialling five mini canal-side greenhouses. Inside each glass structure is a table for two, perfect for an intimate, socially distanced dining experience for people from the same household. Dishes are served on the ends of long wooden planks that allow servers to deliver food to the table without any direct contact. 


Three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington, in Virginia, has seated well-dressed mannequins at the tables it’s unable to use, in order to help recreate its usual atmosphere. The restaurant is working with a local theatre company to dress the dolls in elegant 1940’s garments, and will be serving them wine alongside the regular, human customers.

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