food

After Return of Drive-In Movies, Carhop Service Now Making Comeback in NJ

The throwback decision is bringing life back to a business that just days ago wasn't sure it could even stay open

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Break out your poodle skirt and pleated trousers — the 1950s are making a comeback.

After an increased demand for drive-in theaters amid the coronavirus shutdown, which led to some businesses getting creative to bring back customers, another relic from yesteryear is coming back due to social distancing guidelines: carhop restaurants.

The Brownstone Pancake Factory in New Jersey is embracing the new trend. From the front, the Englewood eatery may look like any other restaurant these days: dark, with no customers inside.

But go around back, and the parking lot is where all the action is happening.

It's not a drive-thru, it's a drive-in — just like the one many of us (or our parents...or our grandparents) used to go to way back when. Customers park, place their order and then eat, all in their car. Although they're not on roller blades (at least not yet), servers bring the dishes out and they can be eaten off trays that attach to the cars' windows.

"I started seeing last couple weeks, people would order from us and sit in our parking lot eating," said owner Bobby Bournias. "So I said hey, why don't we do it like old-school carhop."

There were about a dozen cars enjoying the retro service Monday night, each one separated by at least one parking space in order to ensure social distancing. If families come in multiple cars, they are allowed to park closer together.

The decadent brunch-themed dishes the restaurant is known for are promoted on Instagram, but Bournias said the carhop service is drawing customers in unlike anything else.

"The response was so overwhelming. We had to make it reservation-only because we were nervous for crowds. We were fully booked," Bournias said.

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The throwback decision is bringing life back to a business that just days ago wasn't sure it could even stay open.

"This has been a true blessing, really allowed us to survive," Bournias said. "Our wait staff is serving tables again, they're making money."

Thanks to the success of the program, Bournias said he believes the carhop service may be here to stay, even when the shutdown and social distancing are a thing of the past — just like carhops used to be.

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