With New York City entering “phase three” of the post-COVID recovery this week, the jury is still out on whether or not restaurant dining will ever really return to “normal”. Spaces that involve extended periods of time in close contact with others, while talking and eating (see: restaurants) are considered particularly dangerous. These inventions have the potential to ease some of those worries, but still indicate a coming shift in dining out for good. 

The mask opens up, allowing the wearer to eat. Image courtesy of Fox 5, Washington DC.

This mask, designed by the Israeli company Avtipus Patents & Inventions Ltd., allows the user to eat without taking it off. With the press of a button, or when a fork gets near the face, a hole opens up just large enough to eat through. Intended to make restaurants and dining in public safer, the mask is priced between $1-$3 and will be available in Israel soon. 

The shades hand from the ceiling and encompass the diner and their meal. Image courtesy of Insider.

These lampshade-like shields are a different take on the partitions now required in some spaces to keep diners safe. The device, called Plex’Eat, was designed by Christophe Gernigon, who told Insider that he’s already had requests from restaurants in five different countries. 

A robot bartender in Seoul helps form ice and make drinks. Image courtesy of Reuters.

South Korea has reintroduced a unique solution for bars— robot bartenders. The robots, originally debuted in 2017, have taken on a new significance for patrons looking to stay safer when going out. They wear a vest and tie, craft perfect ice balls, and even explain drinks to bar-goers. 

The plans for the 3D model are available for free online. Image courtesy of Wyn Griffiths.

Wyn Griffiths designed this door handle pull, available for 3D printing, that helps one open doors without having to touch the handles directly. 

The shields are designed to better match the interior aesthetic of the high-end restaurants like this rendering for restaurant Daniel. Image courtesy of Eater.

Michelin-starred NYC restaurants Per Se and Daniel already have a prototype for custom “fancy” shields that go between tables to prevent customers from coming in close contact. Designed by the same firm that designed the restaurants, Tihany Design, the shields are made from glass and wood but haven’t yet been proven to prevent the spread of the virus. 

UV light is being deployed by some restaurants to aid in disinfecting their spaces to prepare for guests. The units range from robotic to built-in, as well as a cleansing station for guests to step in before entering the restaurant.