San Diego restaurant chain's car hop experiment pays off for workers

karinas seafood car hop.jpg
Posted at 6:06 PM, Feb 05, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A San Diego restaurant chain's experiment on an old classic helped its workers make ends meet during the Southern California region’s stay-at-home order.

Yahaira Garcia wasn't sure how she'd make ends meet through the winter. After all, her employer, Karina’s Mexican Seafood, could only serve takeout during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

“As a single mother, it made me very nervous and very anxious,” Garcia said. “I didn’t know where my financial stability was going to be.”

Orders dwindled to maybe 12 a day, and there was only room for four employees on the clock at a time.

“We were able to get a few hours, but not as much,” Garcia said.

But instead of just sitting back, Karina’s Restaurant Group General Manager Alex Navarette saw an opportunity, right out in the parking lot.

“We didn't know what else to do, we were just brain storming,” he said.

The chain decided to try a new spin on an old classic: the car hop. At five of its locations across the county, it offered full car-side service, with entertainment some nights, such as a D.J. It also projected a Canelo Alvarez boxing match to a full parking lot in December.

Garcia got more hours serving outside.

“It did give us a sense of normality, which is really amazing,” she said. “It was so good to see regular customers and the faces that we're used to seeing.”

Regulars brought their RVs, a construction set up on a flat bed, and others dusted off the lawn chairs.

Navarette staffed up from four to eight at some locations.

“We were just doing it as we were going along and it turned out great,” Navarette said.

And now that the stay-at-home order has lifted, Navarette expects even more workers to come back for outdoor table service.

This article was written by Jonathan Horn for KGTV.