JOLIET, IL— People often consider the McDonald’s franchise the gold standard for an efficient drive-thru restaurant. Now, one of Joliet’s long-time sit-down restaurants has reinvented itself during the new coronavirus pandemic. Louis’ Family Restaurant boldly proclaims its new drive-thru system on West Jefferson Street is faster and more efficient than McDonald’s.
“My dad allowed my brother and I to be in the driver’s seat in how the business is run,” the owner’s son, Michael Polimenakos, told Joliet Patch. “He manages the kitchen and ensures everyone is still getting the same great food our customers love, but he’s the one who has let us take the wheel on redesigning our logo, creating indoor banners, posters for advertisements, getting professional photos taken of our food and the most exciting part, designing our own drive-thru.”
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The new drive-thru set up at 1001 W. Jefferson St. works fast, provided that customers have already called Louis’ to place their order. At least 80 percent to 85 percent of Louis’ customers are calling in their orders ahead rather than pulling into the parking lot waiting for someone to take their order and then make their meal.
People who pull into the drive-thru without calling ahead are moved to a second lane in the parking lot. Generally, all food is ready within five to 10 minutes of every phone order, the owner’s son told Joliet Patch Saturday morning.
“If your food is ready when you arrive at our restaurant, we can get you on your way with your food in under a minute,” Michael Polimenakos told Patch. “That is faster than going to McDonald’s. My brother Nick and I get them out fast.”
On Saturday morning, Joliet Patch observed Louis’ Family Restaurant’s new drive-thru set-up for about 15 minutes. At times, there were five and six cars all simultaneously pulling into the drive-thru to get their carryout. Usually within five-minute span, all the original cars were gone from the lot and a new group of hungry motorists was arriving to pick up their order.
“It is fast and it is efficient and you never have to get out of your car,” the owner’s son said.
At a time when many restaurants have greatly scaled back their menus during the pandemic, the Polimenakos family announced Saturday that its menu is undergoing an expansion.
Starting this week, Louis’ has created the “three for $6.95 lunch special.”
The new lunch special – just like Louis’ famous $5.95 breakfast special – is only available Monday through Friday, not on weekends.
The new $6.95 lunch special includes three options: a cheeseburger, chicken sandwich grilled or crispy, or a three-piece chicken tenders. Each $6.95 option includes soup and fries or soup and a half order of onion rings.
Cheese is included for free with the burger or chicken sandwich. You can add bacon for $1 extra and a large fountain drink can be added to your order for $1.
“The new $6.95 lunch special, my brother and I put together,” Michael Polimenakos told Patch.
The other big news surrounds the breakfast menu. It was also expanded as a result of a customer’s suggestion amid the pandemic. Chicken and waffles has been added to the breakfast menu for $9.95.
Michael Polimenakos told Joliet Patch’s editor that one of the customers asked a few weeks back if Louis’ could make him chicken and waffles from scratch.
“We did it for him,” the owner’s son told Patch. The new customer wound up coming back four or five straight days asking for the same meal, Polimenakos added.
“He told us, ‘If you put it on there, it will take off, people will come for this,'” Polimenakos said Saturday. “If this takes off, we’ll probably give him (a free meal on numerous occasions) because he’s the inspiration.”
How did Louis’ Family Restaurant become so efficient at operating a drive-thru service?
Michael Polimenakos said he and his brother Nick run outside once a car pulls up in front of their family restaurant. After speaking with the customer, the brothers run back inside, they grab the individually wrapped plastic bag of food, bring it outside to the respective motorist and send them on their way.
The new drive-thru sends cars onto May Street where they can drive through the neighborhood or they can return to West Jefferson Street.
For lots of Joliet area restaurants, the new coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare, but not for Louis’, a part of Joliet’s West Jefferson Street since December 1992.
“This is very much a positive for us, but this has been a very bad time for a lot of businesses, and we are sympathetic toward everybody else,” Michael Polimenakos told Joliet Patch.
With a super-fast drive-thru setup, three new $6.95 lunch specials and the addition of chicken and waffles to the breakfast menu, “this is a time that we’re going to attract a lot of new customers, and we are going to be prepared to the max,” the owner’s son remarked.
Louis’ Family Restaurant is open seven days a week for takeout orders from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Customers can call in their breakfast and lunch orders at 815-722-6660. The restaurant website for Louis’ Family Restaurant is here.
Joliet Patch continues to write about the city’s small local restaurants and businesses during the ongoing health crisis. Patch created a simple survey to let everyone know they are open and their current hours of operation. About 140 Joliet businesses have been added to Patch’s list so far including Louis’ Family Restaurant. If you want to add your business to Joliet Patch’s list of open and closed businesses, you can do so here.
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