Restaurant Uses Mannequins to Keep Atmosphere Lively despite Pandemic Restrictions

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. inanimate / ɪnˈæn ə mɪt / (adj) – describing something that has no life

    Drawing inanimate objects, like stones, is easy because they don’t move.

  2. lifelike / ˈlaɪfˌlaɪk / (adj) – describing something that looks physically similar to the person or thing it represents

    The celebrity wax figures in the museum are very lifelike. I felt like I was standing beside the actual people!

  3. lift / lɪft / (v) – to formally remove a ban, restriction, etc.

    Health experts were outraged after the ban on cigarette advertising was lifted.

  4. put (someone) at ease / pʊt ət iz / (idiom) – to make someone relaxed or comfortable

    Listening to music while waiting for my dentist appointment puts me at ease.

  5. flair / flɛər / (n) – an appealing and unique quality or style

    The cherry blossom wallpaper gives the house a Japanese flair.


Read the text below.

A three-Michelin-star restaurant in the American state of Virginia started using mannequins as guests when it reopened last May.

The Inn at Little Washington placed mannequins in different areas around the restaurant to make its dining area look busy. Some of the inanimate guests are seated right next to real customers, while others are posed on couches, appearing to be in conversation.

The luxury restaurant partnered with a local theater company to dress the mannequins and make them more lifelike. The mannequins wear wigs, hats, and clothes inspired by 1940s fashion to suit the theme of the restaurant.

When Virginia lifted some of its lockdown restrictions, restaurants were permitted to operate at 50% capacity. Patrick O’Connell, chef and owner of The Inn at Little Washington, said that the restaurant used mannequins to fill the empty spots in an amusing and attractive way. He hopes that these well-dressed dolls can put customers at ease and make them feel less separated from other people in the restaurant.

O’Connell also said that his restaurant is taking the threat of the pandemic seriously and doing its part to keep the coronavirus cases and deaths in Virginia low. He added that restaurant staff are following proper sanitation protocols, such as wearing masks. To add more flair, masks worn by restaurant staff will be designed with Marilyn Monroe’s smile or George Washington’s chin.

An image of the mannequins seated at the restaurant received mixed reactions on Instagram. Some people said that the new set-up is creative and made them excited to go back to the restaurant. However, others found it creepy and compared the scene to horror movies.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think using mannequins is a good way for restaurants to put customers at ease? Why or why not?
• What other creative ways do you think will be effective in maintaining social distance (e.g. wearing dinosaur suits, wearing big hats)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• How do you think businesses can continue providing good customer experience during a pandemic? Discuss.
• What are some challenges in doing that? Explain.