Michelin-Starred Restaurant Will Use Mannequins to Fill Empty Seats

The Inn at Little Washington — the only restaurant in its area with three Michelin stars — has found a unique solution to social distancing while dining.

The fine dining establishment, located about an hour and a half outside of Washington, D.C. in Virginia, plans to use mannequins to fill empty tables once they reopen at the end of the month.

The mannequins will be styled in 1940s-era vintage outfits and are part of a larger performance art project, a spokesperson told Eater.

The Inn is working with Arlington’s Signature Theater and Design Foundry to create “sets” that will align “within the whimsical vein of the Inn’s reverently irreverent approach to hospitality,” the spokesperson said.

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The restaurant, frequented by D.C.’s elite, plans to open for dinner service on Friday, May 29 in accordance with Virginia’s phased plan to lift the restrictions first put in place at the onset of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For phase one of the plan beginning on May 15, restaurants are restricted to outdoor dining areas and the spaces can only be filled to 50 percent capacity.

Once indoor dining is allowed later on in May, The Inn’s chef, Patrick O’Connell, will use the mannequins to fill the empty seats in his restaurant and comply with the 50 percent rule.

“I think it would do people a world of good to reduce their anxiety level when they come out to a place which is still unaffected, because if you watch your television, you think that there isn’t such a place under a bubble,” he told Washingtonian Magazine.

O’Connell, who serves up an inventive $248 tasting menu, also noted that his staff is conducting deep cleanings involving infrared light and he has made custom-made face masks that feature Marilyn Monroe smiles and George Washington chins, Washingtonian reported.

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