Restaurant's innovative way of creating 'full house' atmosphere amid pandemic

A Sydney small business owner has filled empty tables at his restaurant with cardboard cutouts to recreate a busy, “full-house” atmosphere for customers while the coronavirus ten-person limit is in place.

Frank Angilletta, owner of Five Dock Dining in Sydney’s inner-west, said that his original idea was to have cardboard cutouts of famous people to fill the empty seats that will keep patrons at a safe distance while dining.

“You know, like Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, sitting together,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

'Cardboard customers' sitting at tables inside Five Dock Dining restaurant. Getty Images
'Cardboard customers' sitting at tables inside Five Dock Dining restaurant, Sydney Australia. Getty Images

“As I was setting them [cardboard customers] up, one of the waiters was having a laugh and I thought you know what?”

“This could make a good video.”

Mr Angilletta reopened Five Dock Dining this week and will be using fifteen cardboard customers to fill the space in his restaurant, along with a playlist of background noise simulating “guest chatter” to “recreate a busy restaurant atmosphere.”

“We never really had a takeaway side of the business, so we were just closed,” he said.

“Ten [people] is nowhere near enough, we seat about eighty people so, we’re running on under ten percent but it’s a good first step.”

Restaurants and cafés in New South Wales have reopened, but are only allowed to seat ten customers on the premises at a time, with at least four square metres of space per person.

Mr Angilletta’s “cardboard customers” went viral after he shared an amusing video on Five Dock Dining’s social media accounts on the third night his ‘2D patrons’ kept restaurant regulars company during the current restrictions.

A pair of '2D patrons' at Five Dock Dining in Sydney, Australia. Getty Images
A pair of '2D patrons' at Five Dock Dining in Sydney, Australia. Getty Images

“When you’re having dinner with family and friends, you’re talking amongst yourselves and everything else is just background.”

“By the time they left, [restaurant diners] they actually said, ‘It was great, we forgot about it’.”

“They enjoyed their meal like they normally would.”

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