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QR Code menus, elevator foot pedals, and disinfectant sprays: how public spaces are adapting to the pandemic

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A waiter holds a placard showing a barcode that customers scan on their phones to view the restaurant menu, to avoid using paper menus that are touched by many customers, as Italy eases some of the lockdown measures put in place following the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome, Italy, on May 20. -- REUTERS/GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE

AS countries start to tentatively reopen after locking down in order to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, businesses around the world are having to adapt to new norms like social distancing, hand washing, and disinfection. Here are some methods an Italian restaurant, a Thai mall, and a Japanese pub have come up with.

ITALY EATERY RIPS UP PAPER MENUS
Say arrivederci to paper menus.

As Italian restaurants reopen after a business-bruising coronavirus lockdown, owners are turning to safe eating practices to entice customers back.

“Finally after two-and-a-half-months of imprisonment, I’ve managed to come out, not just to go to the supermarket but to a restaurant. It’s great satisfaction and if you eat well, it is even better,” said Stefano Prati, 53, who had just finished eating a plate of pasta alla carbonara, a Roman speciality, on Wednesday at Da Enzo, a restaurant tucked away in the Trastevere neighborhood.

Restaurateurs, who reopened on Monday, have bent over backwards to give clients a safe dining experience.

At Da Enzo’s, that means no paper menus. Instead, a waiter holds up a QR scan code. Customers point their smart phones at it and a menu comes up on their screen with the day’s specialties.

Customers, even older ones, are adapting.

“They’re a bit surprised at first, some fear they won’t be able to use it, but then they realize it’s very easy and they’re happy,” said owner Maria Chiara Di Felice, 37.

Chefs wear masks, gloves, and safety goggles as they fry carciofi alla Romana, or artichokes Roman style, to perfection.

Tables have been reduced by almost half and re-arranged to be at least one meter apart, with stickers of the restaurant’s logo dotted in rectangles on the floor to keep them there.

After patrons leave, staff disinfect tables and chairs.

The neighborhood doesn’t bustle with tourists like before the outbreak but Di Felici is optimistic.

“My hopes are probably those shared by everyone — which is that even if very gradually, I hope that we can come back to living, in some way at least, the life we lived before. Nothing more than this,” she said.

THAI MALL PUTS PEDALS IN LIFTS
Meanwhile, a mall in Thailand has swapped lift buttons for foot pedals in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as well as help restore normalcy and get shoppers spending again.

Customers at Bangkok’s Seacon Square were surprised and confused this week to find pedals in front of the elevators and inside, but they welcomed the new hands-free enhancement as a smart move to stay healthy.

“They did a good job in preparing this. I feel much safer because we use our hands to do various things all the time,” said a customer who disclosed only her first name, Watcharaporn.

“Now that we can use our foot to press the elevator, it’s really great.”

Thailand opened malls and department stores on Sunday for the first time since March, its second phase of relaxing measures as the number of new coronavirus cases slows. It has confirmed 3,034 cases and 56 deaths.

Prote Sosothikul, vice-president of Seacon Development, which oversees the mall, said the foot pedals gave shoppers some peace of mind. “The easiest way to get infected is when you touch an object that has been contaminated,” he said. “Eventually touch your face and the virus will go into your mouth, your eyes, or whatever. So we came up with this idea of hand-free, foot-operated elevator.”

JAPANESE PUB AIMS TO CLEAN UP
As Japan’s restaurants and bars slowly open up from a coronavirus lockdown, many are looking to reassure the public that dining out is safe again and one Japanese-style izakaya pub thinks it has found the perfect solution.

The pub in Tokyo’s normally bustling Shinjuku district has installed a machine that sprays customers with hypochlorous acid water as they enter.

Customers are first greeted by a hostess — on a monitor, of course — who instructs them to disinfect their hands and check their temperature with a thermometer provided.

They then step into a machine that looks like an airport security scanner, or a car-wash for humans, to get sprayed with a fine mist of the chlorine-based disinfectant for 30 seconds.

Customers then pick up a map that guides them to their seat where they order with smartphones.

Throughout the process they have not come into contact with a single person.

“We wanted to develop a system that is in accordance with the new lifestyle and something that is a high model that could prevent infection,” said the president of the Kichiri&Co. group that owns the pub.

“It’s still an experiment, but once we develop the system, we want to share the know-how at each of our restaurants.”

A clear acrylic screen is set up between each diner to further minimize the risk of infection, and it seems to work.

“I feel safe,” said one woman customer who didn’t want to be identified. “But being in there for 30 seconds was a bit long. I was like, when will this be over.”

Kichiri has also installed a spraying booth, which cost more than 700,000 yen ($6,493), at a pub in Osaka city, where the government is expected to lift a coronavirus emergency on Thursday. It remains in place in Tokyo. — Reuters

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