Private Greenhouses Enforce Social Distancing Among Amsterdam Diners

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Amsterdam greenhouses

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Serres Séparées (Separate Greenhouses) 

Overview: The restaurant Mediamatic ETEN in Amsterdam is testing a new dining concept to enforce social distancing among diners. 

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Population: 1.1 million

Food policy category: Food services; Preventative health care 

Program goals: To prevent the spread of COVID-19

How it works: Mediamatic, a waterside plant-based restaurant and bar in Amsterdam, has been closed since early March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the restaurant was closed to the public, the kitchen staff worked to renovate the restaurant in preparation for a safer reopening. To do that, they installed five small greenhouse-like structures along the Oosterdok waterfront. Each greenhouse is intended to accommodate two people who already live together in order to enforce social distancing. To avoid physical contact or any risk of contamination, servers wear gloves and face shields and use long wooden planks to serve food to diners. 

On April 27, the restaurant began testing the greenhouses with friends and family of the staff as the only customers. They opened to the public on May 23, with the permission of local and national authorities. Reservations can be made on the Mediamatic website, but they are currently fully booked through the end of June. 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced that bars and restaurants may begin reopening on June 1 with a maximum capacity of 30 guests. At that time, the restaurant will also be open for indoor dining in the regular facility, and guests will be asked to maintain a safe distance from others. 

Progress to date: Testing of the greenhouse concept began on April 27. The greenhouses are open to the public as of May 23 but reservations are already sold out through the end of June.  

Why it is important: Businesses around the world, including restaurants, bars, museums, salons, and theaters, have been closed for two months or more as governments attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. Although the virus continues to spread, many countries are allowing their economies to slowly reopen while following safety precautions to prevent new spikes in case rates.  

Restaurants face numerous reopening challenges, including how to keep patrons and staff sufficiently distanced from one another, new sanitization protocols, and making a profit with a limited guest capacity. Innovative practices like Mediamatic’s Serres Séparées allow restaurants to enforce social distancing while also generating publicity and excitement to entice potential diners. 

Program/Policy initiated: The trial runs began in April, 2020. 

Point of contact: 

Similar practices: Restaurants around the world are using creative methods to enforce social distancing. Examples include inner tube tables at a Maryland restaurant, mannequins at empty tables in Lithuania and Virginia, and shower curtains as dividers at an Ohio restaurant. 

Evaluation: Official evaluation has not yet been conducted; however, the fact that the greenhouses are fully booked through the end of June is indicative of the excitement the concept has created among the general public. 

Learn more: 


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