Restaurant uses toy pandas to help diners stay distant and feel less lonely

There’s a real fear associated with eating alone.

It feels a touch awkward to be sat at a dinner table without someone to chat to – and that can only be made more uncomfortable with the addition of social distancing measures, Perspex screens, and catching the eye of another diner at a table spaced far away.

To help customers feel less uncomfortable – and ensure everyone maintains social distancing – Vietnamese restaurant Maison Saigon, in Thailand, has hired a bunch of toy pandas.

The concept is simple. Cuddly pandas relax in the seats in which human visitors can’t sit, to make sure proper distance between diners is maintained to ensure safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s an easy way to make sure people don’t just mindlessly take a seat less than two metres away from someone else’s table.

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After all, it would be rude to shove a panda out of its seat.

The added bonus is that if you’re eating by yourself, you’ll have a panda for company, happily sitting opposite or beside you.

It’s a similar approach to the one used at The Moomin Cafe in Tokyo, where solo customers are joined by giant Moomin plushies at their table.

The owner of Maison Saigon, Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul, came up with the idea to add pandas to his restaurant after worrying that new social distancing measures were making people eating alone feel strange and lonely.

The business recently reopened after Thailand relaxed lockdown restrictions, allowing restaurants to serve customers as long as they are seated at carefully spaced-apart tables.

But those heading out for dinner might be a bit put off by the strange, more sterile restaurant experience that greets them.

We reckon toy pandas are a pretty solid solution.

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