In summer, going out felt almost normal again. Restaurants and cafés were busy and the owners were happy to finally be able to welcome their customers back. Now winter is upon us and new rules have been introduced in many countries to try to keep the coronavirus pandemic at bay: vaccine passports, negative tests and even complete lockdown, as recently seen in Austria. What the hospitality sector needs now are creative ideas for the 4th wave and perhaps even beyond. Something other than a delivery service for Christmas feasts, take-aways for quiet nights in and meal boxes including video instructions for ambitious home cooks. Need inspiration? We’ve served up some ideas for you below.
Mannequins in the hotel restaurant
Maintain social distancing, disinfect surfaces, wear a mask – you know the drill. ‘We re-arranged the tables in the restaurant 2 metres apart, taped off the tables that were not in use and took the chairs away. I was talking about this rather uninviting atmosphere at home, and suddenly ideas started coming to me,’ says Ulrike Haase, owner of the Hotel Haase. Guests in the restaurant of the family-run hotel are now treated to a far more entertaining hygiene concept, with Britta, Conny, the pensive Amadeus and Jens seated in the dining room. In total there are 8 mannequins at the tables that have to be kept free. As well as enabling social distancing, they help create a cosy ambience. ‘Our customers love the idea. The dining room looks fuller and they are definitely a topic of conversation.’
Bagels and books from Berlin
Books and food – for many the perfect combination of relaxation and enjoyment. The Berlin café Fine Bagels has come up with a special service to beat the lockdown blues. The café is also an English-language bookshop and, in addition to the New York style bagels made on the premises, it delivers books free to your door. Harari, Eliot and Eggers with a side of sesame-seed, poppy-seed or rosemary sea-salt bagel.
Camping van dinner from the Mill
One idea that Eva Eppard tried out last winter – but no longer offers because it was only really workable during lockdown – is the camping van dinner. Instead of congregating around the crackling log fire of the Hundertguldenmühle, customers sat in their camper vans in a reserved space in the restaurant car park. There was space for a maximum of 5 vehicles, and the restaurant team served dinner directly to the vans. A special kind of meals on wheels.
Transparent bubbles in the Café du Soleil
One idea that has been generating a lot of interest since last winter are the space bubbles of New York’s Café du Soleil. Enveloped in transparent, heated bubbles, diners at the French bistro on Manhattan’s Upper West Side can sit outside, even in winter, as warm and cosy as in an igloo.
Serres Séparées in Amsterdam
People in glass houses… can dine in comfort. In Mediamatic Eten, customers can enjoy plant-based food, organic wine and craft beer in little glass pods. The restaurant is part of an arts centre that organises lectures, workshops and art projects with a focus on nature and biotechnology. At the start of the pandemic, the owners repurposed the miniature greenhouses to create little ‘séparées’.
From the palace kitchen to in-car dining
Guests of the Fasanerie in Eichenzell near Fulda enjoyed a similar experience. During lockdown, the restaurant team had a great idea: Why not serve dinner to guests in their cars, where they could enjoy views of the magnificent baroque palace. The service team would bring the selected dishes to the car door – safe and spectacular. ‘Our in-car restaurant has been mothballed for now, but if the restaurant is ordered to close we will start it up again,’ says hotelier Karl-Gustav Müller, who is currently spoiling his guests with traditional goose dinners and a festive Advent lunch.
Yurts in Brooklyn
Nomad tents in Brooklyn? Surely not. Yes, really! The Lilia in the hip neighbourhood of Williamsburg offers hand-made pasta, fish from the wood-fired barbecue and fine Italian wines – served up in the winter to diners in mini yurts. The tents are originally from Central Asia and provide good protection against the cold. This means the restaurant can continue using its outdoor area all year round, keeping its Italian-food loving customers safe.