Survey assesses consumer perceptions of different dining room setups implemented by restaurants amid COVID-19 pandemic — ScienceDaily
Restaurants around the world were forced to shut down their dining rooms at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year to comply with stay-at-home orders. While many operations closed for good, others reopened at limited capacity several weeks later, sparking creative solutions to enforce social distancing guidelines, including utilizing mannequins. Others were more conservative and opted to place plastic or glass partitions between tables. But which socially-distanced dining room do consumers prefer?
A study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Managementrevealed that consumer perceptions of the dining room that utilized partitions were significantly greater than those that used mannequins. Scott Taylor, assistant professor at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, led the survey of more than 300 people comparing the two servicescapes on the qualities of aesthetics, comfort, safety and cleanliness.
“Results of the current study suggest that consumers have differing perceptions of the cleanliness of the two socially distant servicescapes that were assessed,” Taylor reported. “However, it was not just cleanliness that was found to be perceived significantly differently between the two servicescapes, as respondents indicated that the dining room that has partitions between tables was more visually attractive, cleaner looking, more welcoming, safer looking, more entertaining, more sanitary and more comfortable than the dining room with mannequins.”
Like much of the country, Taylor, a restaurant industry veteran who spent years working in both the kitchen and in management, watched in dismay as thousands of restaurants nationwide closed over the summer. He was intrigued by a restaurant in Virginia making national news for placing mannequins in its dining room. Dressed in old-fashioned attire, the figures were staged to be eating, reading and even proposing on bended knee — all normal scenes for a normal dining room. But 2020