San Diego restaurant group aims shift to in-car dining

Posted at 4:37 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 16:11:49-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A San Diego restaurant group is turning to an old trend to try to make it through the latest shutdown order.

The order, which went into effect Monday, relegated restaurants to takeout and delivery only, decimating their bottom line and forcing them to cut jobs and reduce hours.

"Right now the way it's been, it's not profitable," said Alex Navarrete, general manager of Karina's restaurant group. "We're giving everybody one shifts, two shifts, but what is that going to do?"

Karina's restaurant group has nine establishments around the county. Prior to the pandemic, it had dozens of workers at each location. Now, it has four workers on the clock at anytime at each.

"They all want to work, I just don't have hours now, since we're only doing takeout," Navarrete said.

Navarette is now trying to go above and beyond for his company and his employees - even as his options are limited. Four of the group's restaurants -- two in the Otay Ranch mall, and others in Chula Vista and La Jolla -- will try to take advantage of their parking lots. They're essentially turning into car hops, where patrons get their food delivered to their cars and eat in the parking lot.

"This would be a perfect time to get that cobwebs off the motor home and bring it out, bring the family out," he said.

Curbside pickup for restaurant food is nothing new, but the Karina's group is eyeing making it more festive, with potentiality live music or a DJ outdoors at its two restaurants in the Otay Ranch Mall - Karina's Mexican Seafood and Savoie Italian Eatery. Navaraette said by staying and eating in the car, guests could order their food in courses, so the tacos and other entrees don't get soggy. And he said staff would be able to throw away their trash for them.

He said if this works out well, he hopes to increase hours and shifts.