While many innovative thinkers in the restaurant business are looking forward to creating ways to operate under social-distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, others are looking retroactively to find their way forward.
The University Drive location of Huntsville’s Steak ‘n Shake Steakburgers announced it will return to the company’s original “drive-in” model, which fits perfectly with today’s social distancing requirements.
Steak ‘n Shake got its start along Route 66, the first cross-country highway system. Customers drove their cars into a covered parking space where a “car hop”, who was both a waiter and a busboy, took orders from a carousel menu attached to a pole at every parking place.
Drive-ins consisted of a compact kitchen with a glass window to the outside. There was no indoor dining and the carhop picked up your “burgers and fries” and delivered them to the customer’s vehicle on a clip-on tray that attached to the car’s lowered window.
Not knowing that nearly 90 years later, customers would be required to stay socially distant, guests ate from their vehicles without having to get out of the car.
That concept is not only a safe business model today with the pandemic, but Steak ‘n Shake is counting on it being a fun experience for older customers who yearn for the “good ole days” and those whose experience with the 1950s comes only from watching the TV show “Happy Days”.
Steak ‘n Shake is integrating plenty of modern conveniences into the experience including a mobile ordering app and a rewards program.
Going all in on their roots, customers will pull into a designated car hop parking space denoted by signs of a 45 RPM phonograph record. Using the mobile app, customers place their order, select “Car Hop”, and enter the color and make of their vehicle. They can even pay for their order using the app.
A server will deliver the food on a tray and attach it to the car window, just as they did for decades in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
Guests can enjoy their meal in the car or enjoy their food at a socially distanced umbrella-covered picnic tables denoted by an oversized red, white and blue Route 66 sign – a nod to the original Steak ‘n Shake location.
Steak ‘n Shake will also reintroduce their popular Cajun Burger, available exclusively at the Car Hop through the month of August.
Steak ‘n Shake Senior Vice President Steve May said the revival of its historic drive-in service at all restaurants across the U.S. offers customers a safe and fun way to enjoy a meal.
“The Steak ‘n Shake parking lot was the place to be on a Saturday night in the 1950s, with carhops buzzing in between rows of cars filled with families, couples on dates, and teenagers,” May said. “Today’s pandemic world has enabled us to revitalize the drive-in experience with renewed purpose. Our modern version of the drive-in not only reinforces those early days with delivery right to your car – but it also fits perfectly into today’s reality, offering our guests a way to enjoy dining out of the house while still protecting their family’s health.”
“The relaunch of our drive-in service allows us to bring the legacy of our brand to life in an unforgettable way. Ultimately, the return of the car hop allows us to do what we do best – serve customers in a fun way for a memorable dining experience.”
Steak ‘n Shake began in 1934 in Normal, Ill., and now has more than 500 locations across the United States and globally.
Customers can download the mobile app at https://www.steaknshake.com/rewards/?id=1.