BURBANK, Calif. — Two weeks ago, Cesar Hernandez was sitting at home, not sure where his next meal would come from.
“I was totally worried about having to pay all bills, you know? From the top to the bottom,” Hernandez told Spectrum News 1.
A father of three, he’d been working at Bob’s Big Boy Diner in Burbank when the coronavirus hit and, just like that, he was out of job.
But five weeks later, he got a call from his manager telling him to report back to duty.
“I was so happy when I hear that the next day I was here, and I was here ready to rock and roll,” he said.
The famed diner, the birthplace of the double-decker cheeseburger, found a way to survive COVID-19 — by bringing back another old classic: the car hop service.
Once a staple of American culture, drive-in restaurants are making a comeback, offering a respite for those looking to eat a meal in the presence of others while still adhering to social distancing.
Susan Boyle brought her granddaughter Ruby along for a trip back to her childhood.
“I haven’t been to a carhop situation for probably for, gosh, 40 years. So this is a flashback,” she said.
And it’s not just Boyle. With so many customers flocking to the diner these days, the place is, well, hopping again. Sales are at about 70 percent of what they were before the pandemic, with most of the staff now back on the payroll.
“It’s pretty neat to be able to bring them back because they’re loyal employees who have been with us for many, many, years,” manager Jacki Portillo told Spectrum News.
Hernandez is now busy running back and forth between the kitchen and the parking lot, where orange cones are used to indicate a customer is ready to order.
“When we take the order, the cone, we just flip it down,” he said.
For Boyle, it wasn’t just the burger that hit the spot.
“I’ve been in the house going on what it is now six weeks? And it is nice to get out,” she said.
Bob’s Big Boy’s carhop service runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.