Return of the Roadhouse During COVID-19

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants had to get creative in order to get more customers. Social Distancing, however, does not allow for many customers to dine-in, especially in restaurants with already limited seating space. As a result, the roadhouse concept has become popular once again.

In many ways, the Roadhouse concept is ideal for social distancing. Customers are served their meals while waiting in their cars. Many Roadhouses also provide live music or even movie screens during meal times, such as Cape Town’s Hillcrest Restaurant in the Durbanville Wine Valley.
In 1921, Jessie G. Kirby and Reuben Jackson opened the doors of the first-ever drive-in restaurant in Dallas, Texas. It was wonderfully quick and superbly easy; a perfect way to blend food consumption with the booming automotive industry of the day.

The roadhouse is a popular American tradition that spread to South Africa around the 1940s. Traditionally the purpose of the roadhouse was to provide food and lodging for travelers. They’d usually be situated just outside towns, on the main road. As things got more developed, roadhouses started serving food to people right in their car, offering a quick stopover for human fuel.

Jack black roadhouse

Jack Black Taproom [Image sourced from the Jack Black TapRoom Facebook]

One of Cape Town’s most famous roadhouses is Burger Fair in Bellville; which famously featured in Jack Parow’s music video for “Cooler as Ekke”. The best thing about visiting Burger Fair is that they still serve your food in an old-school food tray attached to your car window. During the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, which banned and later limited, the sale of alcohol sales, local brewery Jack Black embraced a roadhouse concept to survive. Customers could drive up to the Jack Black Taproom parking lot and order six-packs of beer to be delivered to their car.

Only time will tell if customers truly embrace the roadhouse concept, but in the Covid-19 era, crowded restaurants may become a thing of the past, and the roadhouse may be the solution for many businesses’ survival. Simply pull up and enjoy!

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