Izu Shaboten Zoological Park in Itō, Japan, is utilizing the help of some fuzzy friends to enforce physical distancing in its restaurant, Gibbontei, as various COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the country continue to be eased.
They may be adorable and cuddly, but their presence is actually meant to remind you of the importance of maintaining appropriate space.
- See also:
“Stuffed animals such as capybaras and red pandas share a seat with customers, contributing not only to their cuteness but also to ensuring a social distance of the audience,” the facility explains on its website in Japanese.
However, the stuffed animals are not necessarily a new presence in the restaurant. The establishment underwent renovations in the spring of 2018, intending to make “food more entertaining.”
Since the renovations, the capybara plush toys have become the “face” of the restaurant, “creating a peaceful moment unique to our garden by ‘sharing with customers,'” the site describes.
In an effort to adhere to government guidelines and hinder the further transmission of coronavirus, the establishment has changed the layout of its tables to ensure that customers are able to maintain the allotted distance between one another.
“The animals can also ‘replace’ and share a seat with a capybara or red panda,” the site explains. “It has been devised so that the social distance can be secured naturally.”
Gibbontei has also installed hand sanitizer stations at its entrance and exit, and the tables, chairs, and stuffed animals are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after every use.
A similar initiative has been implemented at a restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, where the establishment is using plush pandas at its tables to allow customers to remain at a safe distance from one another, whether they are dining solo, with their significant other, or with their family.
“The pandas will be extremely happy every morning to have the opportunity to fully sunbathe for 1 hour before coming to work in the shop,” the establishment explains on its Facebook. “To be a friend to sit, maintain social distance for everyone to eat delicious and safe food.”