How to Capitalize on the Growing Carhop Trend During the Pandemic

How to Capitalize on the Growing Carhop Trend During the Pandemic

Local ordinances for social distancing have forced many establishments to close their dining rooms or operate at significantly lower capacity. Many restaurants have been able to make it through the summer by switching to outdoor seating.

But what do we do in the fall and winter when the cold weather, rain and snow start? Many states are still planning to keep social distancing mandates in place during the coming months.

Some innovative restaurants have found a solution that keeps them compliant with social distancing requirements, allows them to offer great customer service and keeps their customers comfortable.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

A New Spin on a Classic

In the 1950s the automobile was king. People didn’t seem to want to leave their cars. Drive-ins with carhop service preceded the modern drive-through restaurants. Nowadays, drive-in service is closely associated with hot rods, roller skates, and classic American diners. But the drive-in restaurant served as a staple of the American restaurant industry for nearly 30 years.

With restaurant dining rooms closed and parking lots otherwise empty, a carhop service model allows any restaurant to pivot service without the added expense of remodeling with a drive-through.

Carhop Service is a Saving Grace for Restaurants

When Bournias, owner of Brownstone Pancake Factory in New Jersey, noticed that his curbside pickup customers would stay in their cars to eat instead of driving away, he was reminded of the old days of the carhop. He immediately purchased special trays for car-side service and went all-in.

The result? Bournias managed to reinvigorate his business with his new carhop style service and save his restaurant, when so many others were closing their doors.

The handful of restaurants that have shifted their focus to drive-ins during the pandemic have been able to capitalize on both the convenience and the nostalgia. Social media attention is shining a spotlight on these franchises, and diners are eager to try something new or visit their favorite restaurant again.

How Carhop Service Works

A carhop is a server that buses food straight to the guest’s car. With special trays that attach to the customer’s open window, carhops provide service that is closely akin to dine-in table service, allowing your customer to remain comfortably in their vehicle.

Customers using their own cars as tables abide by social distancing requirements. As long as vehicles are directed to park an adequate distance apart your restaurant should be in compliance. This allows your guests to minimize the risk of infection while you can maintain great, personalized service.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

What You Need For Drive-In Restaurant Service

To provide comfortable carhop service, there are a few things you will need. Just like Bournias and the Brownstone Pancake Factory, you will need to get your hands on carhop trays. Your customers will be eating in their car so it’s important to help make them comfortable. The trays allow them more space to dine within their vehicle.

For the modern carhop, wireless hand-held POS tablets that print orders from the drive-in all the way to the kitchen are a must. This requires the best and most reliable point of sale technology.

Servers take orders at the customer’s car and run payments right in the palm of their hand. There’s no running back to the kitchen to start making food, because the order prints right away to the kitchen. Using this method you can serve more customers than they ever could in the 1950s, using separate cashiers and food-runners.

Another advancement is the ability for your customers to order and pay using their smartphone. With this technology you don’t even need cashiers, just food-runners. All of your guest’s vehicle information is included on the ticket so it’s easy to find. They can even order before they arrive and specify their arrival time.

With Rezku, we provide you with all the tools you need to manage curbside pickup and drive-in orders successfully, from wireless portable POS to online ordering and payment right on a guest’s own phone.


Diners are looking for an excuse to escape the monotony of the lockdown and social distancing. Ultimately what guests want is a return to normalcy, and to enjoy their favorite foods without the fear of contracting COVID-19. By providing drive-in service with carhops, you can offer exactly that.

When customers use their own cars as their tables, you can reduce their fear of infection from publicly shared surfaces. Using the latest wireless technology, carhop service is easier than ever. Shared contact is eliminated with smartphone ordering and payments.

Rezku offers all the tools you need to accommodate drive-in customers and carhop service. Contact us today for a free demonstration of Rezku’s curbside takeout and dine-in service features.

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