A pop-up drive-thru serving fun food typically found at festivals and fairs is returning to Prince Frederick, Maryland, for a second weekend.
The Southern Maryland Fair Food Drive-Thru at the Calvert County Fairgrounds will be open, rain or shine, Aug. 14 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Aug. 15 and 16 from noon to 8 p.m.
Jeff Phelps, owner of Phelps Concessions, said COVID-19 canceled more than 100 events that he would normally set up food stands at this year. So, he did some brainstorming.
“This fair food drive-thru simply was a thought that I had to try to generate some business for myself and several of my peers who own other businesses like me, to keep our employees on payroll,” he said.
Turnout over the first weekend, Aug. 7-9, blew Phelps away.
“We had numbers that we could never have imagined, ever. We had well over 1,000 cars that came through,” he said.
Wait times were initially as long as two hours, so changes were made to get customers rolling past the food stands faster.
“Overnight Friday into Saturday we actually had to double all of our production. We doubled our staff; we doubled our equipment; and we were able to start moving the line much more efficiently,” Phelps said.
Production will be boosted even more this weekend. Almost everything they sell is made from scratch on site.
The menu includes everything from funnel cakes, ice cream and fried Oreos to Krispy Kreme doughnut cheeseburgers, gyros, and Phelps’ personal favorite: cheesy bacon bombs.
“The bacon is crispy and the mozzarella cheese is just melted and kind of oozing out of them,” he said.
New items added this weekend include cotton candy, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and different flavors of kettle corn.
Prices range from $3 for a small bag of popcorn to $12 for the doughnut cheeseburger.
Phelps said he partnered with the Calvert County Health Department to make the event as safe as possible.
Customers place their orders by rolling down their passenger side windows, which allows for more social distancing. They have the option of making contactless payments through Apple or Samsung Pay (paying with cash, debit or credit is fine too), and the food is delivered to their cars.
Employees, who normally wear gloves and hair protection, are now wearing masks, too.
Each employee gets a health screening, including a temperature check, daily. Anyone who doesn’t meet the company’s requirements is immediately relieved of duty until they get a doctor’s note allowing them to return to work.
Phelps would like to bring the concept to other parts of the region, but it may take some time.
“We’re in talks with different areas to put this on in other jurisdictions, but the process is unbelievably long,” he said.
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