Thoughts on eating out behind plexiglass

As the world begins to re-open more, I’ve seen more stories about what the “new normal” will be for restaurant dining. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about reopening stories from three European cities. One of those stories centered around a cafe in Germany that was handing out hats with pool noodles that guests wore to ensure they were far enough away from others. It was goofy, but highlighted how restaurant owners are all trying to adapt to the new reality of a socially-distanced society. This week, I read another story that builds on that theme, but it sheds the goof and adds a touch of refined style.

Travel + Leisure profiled a new innovation from a Paris-based designer called the Plex’Eat. This hanging shield is meant to suspend from the ceiling, like a light fixture, over a guest’s chair and provide a safe dining experience. A couple of people in my circle have shared similar articles with me this week, so this hanging “enclosure” idea appears to be picking up a bit of steam.

The brain behind the Plex’Eat is Christophe Gernigon. Gernigon has a 20+ year career in interior design/architecture and scenography, and this pandemic has clearly sparked new inspiration.

As he states on his website,

“I imagined, during my nocturnal creative wanderings of these months of confinement, a new way of welcoming customers of bars and restaurants in search of outings. Even if I hope not to get there, it is better to consider aesthetic, design and elegant alternatives that guarantee the rules of social distancing.”

Christopher Gernigon

I wish I had nocturnal creative wanderings. …sounds way better than anxiety dreams!

So, what are the specs of this Plex’Eat?

Image from Christophe Gernigon’s Instagram
  • Plexiglass material.
  • I’ll call it modern minimalist design.
  • Opening in the back to provide the guest “ease” of sitting down and standing up (I definitely imagine people still bumping into the sides and causing a stir).
  • Enough space to allow guests to reach below the shield to eat and drink “normally.”

Not as charming at the individual greenhouses with water views in Amsterdam, but probably a more realistic implementation for a wide range of restaurants globally. Again, thank goodness for minds far more creative than mine!

While functionally the Plex’Eat may very well be a good solution, the questions remains: will people actually enjoy the experience of dining with a shield around them?

For one, it may make people claustrophobic. Then there’s the dynamic of actually engaging in conversation with other people at your table whilst behind shields. It’s hard enough at times for people to hear one another in a restaurant. Add this in and people may get so frustrated that they decide to eat in silence. Another dilemma for a “food sharer” and tapas enthusiast like me — how do you share plates and pass each other food in this environment? Gernigon did release a solution to this problem with the Plex’Eat Duo, which allows two people to sit face-to-face with the shield bubbled around both of them. So, at least there’s hope for dating or enjoying a glass of wine with one friend.

Image from Christophe Gernigon’s Instagram

I haven’t even gotten into the science fiction feel of all of this, but I think that’s self-evident. …

Would I eat behind a Plex’Eat? I think I would to support local restaurants I really care about. I don’t know if I would want my first experience at a restaurant to be in that environment. I think it completely alters the experience and ambiance that’s so important for that “first time.”

But, maybe the “new normal” will be the norm for a long time. Does that mean I won’t go to a new restaurant for a year? Two years? That just seems like too sad of a thought!

What are your thoughts? What will be your line for acceptable and borderline absurd in this new world in which we find ourselves?