Social distancing can make once-vibrant places seem eerily empty these days, but one German restaurant is always full of diners. It’s using shop-window mannequins to improve the atmosphere and keep real visitors company.

Borrowed from a local vendor, six mannequins now permanently occupy dining tables at the family-run hotel and restaurant Haase in Laatzen, Germany.

The dummies have been given old-fashioned German names like Hubertus or Hannelore, but one of them, a female character, is called Conny Corona – an appropriate nod to the zeitgeist of the time.

The plastic guests keep real visitors apart, but they also create the impression that Haase’s dining hall isn’t sparsely occupied. Despite being motionless, the fabulous six still have their benefits; apparently, they’re always ready to listen and are unable to spoil the evening.

What’s more, one can always chat with living friends online or by telephone, sparing themselves an awkward pause or senseless talk at the table.

Owner Ulrike Haase and her partner came up with the novel concept after learning about the German football league’s solution – which involved installing human-shaped cardboard cutouts in stadiums to replace fans.

Across Germany, restaurants are re-emerging after weeks of quarantine, but strict hygiene and social distancing requirements will keep them half-empty until at least this summer.

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