Social distancing rules are forcing restaurants around the world to think in new and creative ways to manage the health and welfare of their staff. But this latest idea is definitely the wackiest we've seen yet.
Diners at three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington can expect to spend their evening seated amongst a host of well-dressed mannequins in the restaurant's opulent dining room when it reopens on May 29.
The idea was dreamed up to satisfy the social distancing mandate and fill otherwise empty seats further to the coronavirus health and safety measures.
Asked about the expected reaction from guests, spokesperson Danielle Pagano McGunagle told Fine Dining Lovers: "We feel this would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops. The Inn at Little Washington has always celebrated the 'living theatre' of a restaurant. "
Chef Patrick O'Connell, who has an background in drama, has been working with a theatre company to perfect the 1940s look for his resident guests. He has also created custom-made masks bearing Marilyn Monroe smiles and George Washington chins. The theatre will also be brought to life by servers interacting with the mannequins, pouring them wine and asking them about their evening.
"I've always had a thing for mannequins — they never complain about anything, and you can have lots of fun dressing them up," chef O'Connell told Departures.
So far, early reactions on social media have been polarised, from those loving the novel idea to others generally being "freaked out" or fearing a chef fetish. Let's see what happens when the living theatre opens for business.