It's not every day you sit down to a meal among mannequins, but one Auckland restaurant is using them to ensure social distancing during alert level 2.
Luis Cabrera, 39, owns and is the executive chef at the restaurant Besos Latinos Ceviche Bar on Auckland's Halsey St, a Latin-American restaurant.
Guidelines for level 2 restrictions require restaurants to comply with social distancing requirements, meaning tables will be spaced out. But the idea of opening with empty tables didn't sit right with Cabrera. It reminded him too much of the movie Home Alone.
His solution: having mannequins stand in as diners.
"I thought we could give some feeling of activity for restaurants," Cabrera tells the Herald.
The mannequins are dressed up as characters like a couple out on a date, sports fans, and friends dining together.
The stress of being a restaurant owner during Covid-19 lockdown had him thinking of a creative way to encourage passersby to have a bit of normality, with a bit of humour thrown in.
"I thought, while respecting the law, we can do this, and it's maybe a fun way as well for people to laugh about this unusual situation.
"You [Kiwis] are really social people, you try to get a little bit of normality with a laugh, you know," the Mexican-born restaurant owner says.
While some may find the mannequins creepy, Cabrera has found a solution. The mannequins are dressed up as different characters representing the typical customers the restaurant would normally attract.
"Once you put together their backstory, given them their glass of wine, put a hat on them and turn the heads towards each other and put a knife and fork in their hands, they get more realistic and less creepy," he says.
He says the mannequins caught the eye of some construction workers yesterday who stopped to take photos next to them from a safe distance outside.
"I think it's going to be a good opportunity of course for them to share with their friends, and it's a fun way of looking into level 2, I guess," Cabrera says.
Cabrera expects the restaurant to be reasonably busy tonight, especially with tables out of action to keep with social distancing requirements.
The restaurant had opened for takeaway orders under alert level 3, but Cabrera says nothing quite matches the service and cuisine experience of dining in.