Produced during the pandemic, our upcoming issue (Frame 135, out 1 July) unpacks how certain industries, including hospitality, are having to respond to the disruption of business as we knew it. Restaurant survival strategies have generally been twofold: first, cater for customers offsite through deliveries while staying connected via social media. Secondly, determine how social-distancing practices will affect the use of physical space once diners are able to return. As we outline in Frame 135, many potential solutions for weathering the storm already exist; ‘what’s required now is to identify, invest and implement them more fully.’

DTZW’s 23-Seat Restaurant in Beijing provides one such example – so much so that it’s hard to believe it was designed pre-pandemic. The solo-dining restaurant uses partitions to separate customers – a spatial setup expected to be adopted as a social-distancing measure.

The layout of the 138 m2 space emphasizes the ritual of consuming a meal. Customer seating is arranged around a passageway, which servers use to ferry meals from the preparation area. A spokesperson from DTZW calls it a ‘free, open and inclusive dining environment’. Presumably these words reflect the desire to shift away from the stigma that a meal shared is a meal more enjoyed – a sentiment that has even more meaning now that we’ve been forced to physically distance ourselves from certain people and, conversely, pushed into close quarters with others.

While the restaurant stresses the importance of self-focus and self-reflection, it also respects the need for flexibility. As such, if customers do wish to engage socially – or, given the current circumstances, it becomes safer to do so – the partitions between seating can be raised.

On 2 June 2020, we'll be hosting a #FrameLive talk on Zoom about post-pandemic hospitality design. Find the details here, and keep an eye out for Frame 135, our post-pandemic special out from 1 July.