Like everyone, Adolph’s Mexican Food in East Moline co-owners/operators John and Jeff Perez did not know what to expect when they learned Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was not allowing restaurants to serve inside for dining in mid March.
They knew it meant carry-out only. Jeff, the son of John, who is the son of the restaurant’s namesake, Adolph, thought the restaurant would likely do OK, since the drive-thu window was already 65% of their busy business.
The inside of the former donut shop on Kennedy Drive that Adolph’s Mexican Food has had in the family there since the early 1970s only seats 80-90 people.
Still, father and son did not expect what’s played out since.
Would you believe more than 1,000 cars served on Cinco De Mayo?
Or how about 800-900 cars just about every Taco Tuesday when hard-shell tacos are sold for $1.39 each? The car line at dinner time Tuesday often stretches 25 deep.
Even on a Wednesday, they likely get 500-600 cars for the day, Jeff said.
“I really was blown away by the support we get,” John said. “Really, really.
“We always had a decent drive-thru. And when they said, 'nothing inside,' we knew it would be different. And it sure was. It was a pleasant surprise to see how busy we got.”
At first, Jeff said, Adolph’s was one of only a few restaurants even open in that area on Kennedy Drive off Avenue of the Cities. “So I know that had a lot to do with it,” he said of the business boost. “It’s still doing it, though.”
These days Jeff can often be seen outside taking orders on his iPad from people in the cars, helping keep the wait time from a time a car arrives until it gets its food to less than eight minutes from the flagpole.
If it’s a small line, orders are taken at the window, where the bill is paid and the food is dispersed, often in less than two minutes.
Waiting for food is a part of life these days, said customer Dave DeCap, who is known to stop for lunch at Adolph’s when he’s working in that area. “It’s great food,” is the main reason he likes to stop there when he can.
John Perez estimates the Adolph's brand has served 95% of Rock Island County by now, his dad opening the restaurant back in 1952. "We've served millions of tacos," he said.
Though the line has stretched onto Kennedy Drive and nearly a mile away once, the staff of 25-30 which includes four cooks at lunch and five at dinner, keeps the line moving. Two other employees make sauces and answer the phone, taking orders. There's always eight to 10 on hand, John said, including some who deliver orders to waiting cars parked in Adolph’s normal spaces.
The parked cars might give the appearance that people are inside dining, which is allowed now, but not at Adolph’s. They will let you eat on the patio out front, but only after you have gotten your food. It does not send staff out there to take orders.
It plans to stay as carry-out only for the time being.
“If it’s working, why fix it right now,” Jeff said, adding he expects the state to go back to no eating inside restrictions this fall anyway if the coronavirus surges.
About the only area of Adolph’s Mexican Food in East Moline that suffered during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has been catering. But even that has recovered strongly.
“The last three weeks it has exploded again,” Jeff said.
“Tomorrow, I am (serving) a total of 600 people — seven different parties."
So business looks to keep doing well, with the founder's great recipes treating customers. Last Tuesday night, Jeff could be seen taking orders out on Kennedy Drive.
Any advice for other restaurants during the crisis?
Just keep going right now,” Jeff said. “You can’t close, like the restaurants that didn’t have drive-thrus. A lot of them just closed. You’ve got to at least try.