Restaurants are still closed in the U.K. (where indoor dining won't resume until at least May 17) but Japanese chain Wagamama has come up with a way to get people to reconnect on its long wooden benches at the end of a long, tough lockdown.
U.K. coronavirus rules now stipulate that people can meet outdoors for a socially distanced chat on a bench (believe it or not, this wasn't even allowed until early March). So, in a project via Uncommon Creative Studio, Wagamama is placing benches in university cities—Bristol, Brighton and Manchester—and encouraging students to meet for a free cup of its green tea and a chat about how they are feeling.T
he benches also have a symbolic aspect to them; they're called Kintsugi Benches, named after the Japanese tradition of repairing broken pottery with gold laquer. The benches are designed with a crack down the middle, as if mended in this way. Wagamama will give away the tea at each location.
The repair theme reflects the fact that many young people and students have struggled with their mental health during the most recent lockdown. Wagamama worked with charity Young Minds on the project.
"We can't nourish young people in our restaurants at the moment but we do want to support them coping with the pressure to put their game face on and "party," as soon as lockdown eases," added Emma Woods, CEO at Wagamama. "We know from our work with Young Minds that a lot of them have really struggled over the last few months in particular and are feeling low."
The project is the first work for Wagamama by Uncommon, which is working with the chain on a project basis and was awarded the business without a pitch. "Wagamama are loved by many," commented Natalie Graeme, co-founder at Uncommon, in a statement. "They have an incredibly powerful place to play in the category, especially as the hospitality sector emerges from lockdown."