The Inn at Little Washington | Mannequins at tables to mark social distancing


  • Social distancing by placing mannequins in the dining room at The Inn at Little Washington
  • Social distancing by placing mannequins in the dining room at The Inn at Little Washington

Restaurant The Inn at Little Washington in Washington VA (1,5 hours west of Washington D.C.) is on track to be the first three-Michelin-star restaurant to reopen in the U.S. The open for the Memorial Day weekend with ‘fresh air’ lunches at the more than 20 acres of outdoor space with many beautiful gardens which is located all around the property. Allthough they open this Memorial Day Weekend to have lunch in the gardens, they have opted to wait until Friday, May 29th to open the indoor dining rooms. With restrictions on capacity, Chef Patrick O’Connell has decided that empty tables will be theatrically dressed with mannequins. The Inn is working with local companies Signature Theater and Design Foundry to create the sets. Tables that are unable to be seated with actual guests will be an entertainment and design touchpoint to keep things interesting. The Inn at Little Washington is known for being reverently irreverent as is felt through playful experiences, such as the cheese specialist with mooing cow cart that speaks exclusively in puns or the dining room dress code: “no wet bikinis.”

A charming solution for empty spaces! We came across another restaurant in Bangkok (Thailand), here the owner placed stuffed animal panda’s at the empty seats. A bit of humour in the dining room and an opportunity to make some fun photo’s for guests. Like with the mannequins… Look at the image in this Dutch article:  In Gemany hotel Haase also uses mannequins to sit at the tables in their restaurant.

The Inn at Little Washington and its chef/proprietor Patrick O’Connell

“I’ve always had a thing for mannequins–they never complain about anything and you can have lots of fun dressing them up”, said Patrick O’Connell, Chef/Proprietor The Inn at Little Washington. “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. This would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops. The Inn at Little Washington has always celebrated the ‘living theatre’ of a restaurant and this project gives us an opportunity to work with Design Foundry and Signature Theatre in DC who we’ve collaborated with in the past. They will be providing the costumes and make up for our mannequins. We’re all craving to gather and see other people right now. They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.”

“When The Inn at Little Washington reached out with the idea to costume mannequins, we thought it was a fun and creative way for them to conform to social distancing guidelines,” says Signature Theatre’s Managing Director Maggie Boland. “We jumped at the chance to collaborate with another of Virginia’s great cultural destinations in support of their reopening. 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 at Little Washington is 23-room, Double 5 Star, Double 5 Diamond inn and three-Michelin-star restaurant sprawled across a 24-acre campus of plentiful garden with mountain views, winding trails, a farm and even a chicken coop complete with crystal chandelier. Chef and Proprietor Patrick O’Connell was the subject of a recently launched doc: The Inn at Little Washington: A Delicious Documentary, streaming on PBS. He was also bestowed with the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award and National Humanities Medal in 2019.

Memorial Day weekend

They will be offering a guided Garden and Grounds Tour and Box Lunch beginning on Memorial Day weekend (May 22-25). Tours begin at 11:00 a.m. and 1 p.m Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tickets can be purchased on the website. Tickets includes a guided tour with one of the staff’s horticulturists and a box lunch from the kitchens. Wine will be available at an additional cost. The tour will include the Field of Dreams, Courtyard Garden, the Vegetable garden, Knot Garden, guest room gardens and much more. Tables will be set up around the property for guests who want to enjoy their lunch while they’re here.

Website: The Inn at Little Washington

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