COVID-19 and the (Re) Rise of Carhops

A lot has been made of the fact that COVID-19 has accelerated a new normal void of handshakes, crowded spaces, and traditional workplaces, but has the virus actually sent us back in time rather than forcing the future? If trends in fast food are any indication, COVID might be more of a blast from the past than a harbinger of things to come. Since mid-March (when the spread of COVID became front-page news) Sonic–known for its 1950’s-esque drive-in style carhop service–has cemented its place as the preferred fast food destination for diners who have ventured outside their home. Regional favorites such as Culvers (WI) and Popeyes (LA) still have a loyal following in their respective home states and Taco Bell remains a popular choice, but it is clear that Sonic’s unique service model has likely played a role in pandemic-weary travelers looking for a bite to eat.


Data Source
- Clara by Cuebiq

Date Range
- 06/12/19 - 06/12/20

- Top Data analyzed consumer tracking data as an indicator of visits to Fast Food Locations.

Key Findings

  • Sonic is the overwhelming favorite across America.
  • Despite McDonald's efforts to provide free meals to frontline workers, Wendy's and Taco Bell tie for the #2 position.


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