Coronavirus: SF restaurant introduces outdoor dining domes

SAN FRANCISCO — Restaurants have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with indoor seating severely restricted as states practice social distancing.

While outdoor seating is not unusual anymore, customers still are at the mercy of the elements. However, a San Francisco restaurant owner has come up with a way to ensure comfort while maintaining an elegant dining experience: Dining domes.

On Wednesday, customers at Sushi Hashiri in downtown San Francisco were escorted to 7-foot translucent domes positioned on the restaurant’s patio, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The domes, which are covered in plastic, are sometimes used at rooftop bars during the winter season in New York or Chicago and are called garden igloos, SFGate reported.

Patrons dined outside Wednesday, sampling the Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant’s kaiseki and omakase sushi dinners at $200 per plate, the Chronicle reported.

“We hadn’t seen any other Bay Area restaurants doing it, so why not be the first?” restaurant manager Kenichiro Matsuura told SFGate.

Hashiri had tried outdoor seating before, but Matsuura said the setting did not make it a viable option.

But as the pandemic deepened, Matsuura said when the restaurant was forced to close, relying solely on takeout business did not work.

“We were hit harder and harder month by month, and we knew we had to come up with a new idea,” Matsuura told SFGate.

The igloos cost $1,400 apiece, but it allowed Sushi Hashiri to serve customers in a setting that resembled its indoor seating arrangement.

“What we provide is a journey of traditional cuisine in Japan,” Matsuura told SFGate. “In these challenging times, we knew everyone still wanted to have a good meal. We asked ourselves, how can we continue to offer that in these circumstances while keeping everyone safe?”

The igloos were the answer, and Matsuura said he plans on buying more in the near future.

“They give our customers peace of mind. They’re in their own cozy atmosphere and they feel safe,” Matsuura told SFGate. “They were having a blast. That’s what’s important to me.”

Customers can reserve the dining domes, which seat four people, at 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Customers dining at 5 p.m. have a two-hour window, which allows the restaurant staff to clean and sanitize the domes before seating the next set of customers.

“We want to be able to stay in the game and operate our business and we’re honored to be able to survive,” Matsuura told SFGate. “We hope we can continue to serve the community and see some happy faces and happy stomachs.”

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