Which would you prefer this evening: Dining among mannequins or shielded by clear partitions? That was essentially the question posed in a study of diners’ preferences for social distancing in the age of COVID.
The winner: partitions, which also featured prominently in a recent vice presidential debate. Perhaps the diners just didn’t fancy eating with a bunch of stiffs.
“Respondents indicated that the dining room that has partitions between tables was more visually attractive, cleaner looking, more welcoming … than the dining room with mannequins,” according to the study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.
Scott Taylor, assistant professor at the University of Houston, tackled the research after reading of a Virginia restaurant that reopened after the initial lockdown with mannequins in old-fashioned attire interspersed at tables to give the illusion of a fuller dining room and enforce distancing. “It’s called social density, so I can understand why restaurants would want to use figures to create that density aspect,” Taylor said.
More than 300 people participated in the survey, comparing the two “servicescapes” on aesthetics, comfort, safety and cleanliness.
But apparently with age comes more tolerance for mannequins. Those over 40 said they’d be just as likely to frequent either type of establishment.