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Restaurants unmask creativity in protective gear

In the coronavirus pandemic, masks range from designer chic to darned-right cheeky

Personal protective wear has become a standard part of the staff uniform at restaurants as they reopen dining rooms amid easing coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

And the new face coverings have benefitted from the restaurant industry’s typical creativity, ranging from New York-based Just Salad’s collaboration with fashion designer Kenneth Cole to some mom-made masks.

Such variety should be expected. It was Hercule Poirot author Agatha Christie who wrote that “the human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.”

José Cil, CEO of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International Inc., parent to Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Tim Horton’s, acknowledged earlier in May that masks are becoming standard.

“We have fully embraced the notion that parts of our restaurants need to change – certainly, for the foreseeable future and possibly forever,” Cil said in an open letter. “For instance, while we have mandated masks and gloves in the short-term, our brand and operations teams are now evaluating more comfortable and reusable masks that may become part of our standard uniforms.”

Just Salad, the fast-casual brand with 45 locations in Illinois, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, tasked designer Cole to create a mask in the brand’s signature navy blue printed with the word “ESSENTIAL” across the front as well as both companies’ logos.

The masks, manufactured in Los Angeles, are reusable and provided to all employees, the company said.

“When we saw the work Just Salad was doing in support of the first responders during these unprecedented times, we reached out in the hope to feature these employees in our New Courageous Class campaign,” said Cole, founder and CEO Kenneth Cole Productions, in a statement.

Here’s a gallery look at some of the many mask innovations popping up among restaurateurs around the nation, and even some alternatives.

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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