An Aberdeen hotel is planning to set up transparent igloos to allow diners to eat outside while observing social distancing.
The Chester Hotel will also add an open-sided marquee as part of plans to reopen once it is deemed safe to do so.
Alongside facilties which already exist, the new installations will help the hotel seat 100 guests once it is allowed to reopen.
The two “Eden Project style” vented ‘igloos’ will be constructed at the front of the hotel and customers will be able to pre book these vented domes for small groups of up to eight dine in.
They will be opened once the Scottish Government gives the all-clear for open air dining to restart.
Owner Graham Wood said: “It’s important for us that, as well as keeping our staff and customers safe, we provide everyone with The Chester experience. After such a long period of lockdown, where treats, and socialising, were in short supply, we think people will want to feel a little normality and have the choice to go somewhere of their choice. Eating out is such an important part of our culture.
“We know how popular our alfresco dining was last year when we unveiled the changes we made, and we’re confident that people will want to return as soon as they can to socialise responsibly – hopefully in the sun.”
The hotel, and its two-red-rosette restaurant, has been shut since March 23.
General manager Stephen Gow – who is also vice-chairman of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association – added: “Ensuring the safety and distancing of staff in a hotel kitchen is always going to be a challenge. However, we’re fortunate that we have two separate kitchens so we can distance our team by spreading them through theses areas.
“We’re also introducing a one way system for our waiting staff as they usually pass in narrow corridors and on the back stairs. Again, we’re got the luxury of the space to be able to do this. We’ve also taken delivery of PPE for our team and sanitising stations for staff and guests alike.
“We’ll no longer be taking cash, all payment will have to be by card. We’ll also only be open to those who have pre booked tables and we’re expecting that tables will book up quickly.
“We’ve been working on developing ways in which we will be able to provide menus to phones so that we don’t have to hand out physical menus. We’ve also invested in a sophisticated fogging system which will allow us to completely sanitise a table and the surrounding area following each booking.
“A high degree of customer service has always been important to The Chester Hotel and we’re having to look at how we serve food and drinks which keeps everyone involved safe, but which doesn’t depersonalise the interaction to the point where it’s uncomfortable.
“We’re looking at removing cruets and replacing with single use sachets and instead of laying cutlery for all of our guests individually, we’ll be sanitising it and placing it directly into wrapped napkins.
“If we’re going to do something at The Chester we always do it properly and in style.”