Michelin-Star Restaurant The Inn at Little Washington Seats Mannequins to Make Dining Room Look Busy

The Inn at Little Washington has found a creative way to pack the restaurant without going over 50% capacity: mannequins.
The Inn at Little Washington

The Inn at Little Washington, a restaurant about an hour and a half west from Washington, D.C., plans to reopen its doors to the public May 29.

A three Michelin-star restaurant in Virginia has come up with a creative way to ensure its patrons receive a full dining experience while safely observing social distancing rules enacted to curb the spread of the coronavirus: mannequins. The Inn at Little Washington, a restaurant about an hour and a half west from Washington, D.C., plans to reopen its doors to the public May 29, Danielle McGunagle, managing director of hospitality at the restaurant, told InsideEdition.com. 

While the space will be kept at 50% capacity for social distancing purposes, diners will be able to count on the ambiance associated with a packed restaurant, as they’ll be eating alongside mannequins. Empty tables will be theatrically dressed with figures posed as if they’re eating, an idea Chef and Proprietor Patrick O’Connell came up with in an effort to keep things interesting. 

"I've always had a thing for mannequins--they never complain about anything and you can have lots of fun dressing them up," said O'Connell, who was the subject of “The Inn at Little Washington:  A Delicious Documentary,” streaming on PBS.

“When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant's occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious--fill it with interestingly dressed dummies,” he continued. “This would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops.”

The 23-room eatery has always celebrated the “living theatre” of a restaurant, O’Connell said, noting that for this project they collaborated with the D.C.-based Design Foundry and Signature Theatre.

“We jumped at the chance to collaborate with another of Virginia's great cultural destinations in support of their reopening,” Signature Theatre’s Managing Director Maggie Boland said. “Signature’s costume shop manager, Frederick Deeben, went to work pulling costumes and accessories to outfit the mannequins – dining couples – in 1940s style dress. We can’t wait to see the dining room all decked out for a post-war party!”

The Inn is also offering guided tours of its garden and grounds, as well as box lunch, starting Memorial Day weekend. The tour will include the “Field of Dreams,” several gardens and more. Tables will be set up around the property for guests who want to enjoy their lunch while there, the restaurant said.