Driving through town between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m., it’s not rare to see a dozen or more cars in line at drive through restaurants in Huntsville. All you can eat pancakes, cheeseburgers and tacos seem to be floating through the minds of Sam Houston students every Thursday and Saturday night at “closing time.”
Vanessa McGowan, shift leader of Huntsville’s Jack in the Box, said the weekend “bar rush” is busier than either the lunch or dinner rushes.
“We know exactly when the club lets out,” McGowan said. “We have to stock and everything to get ready.”
McGowan said between midnight and 2 a.m. at least 35 to 40 cars drive through the restaurant’s line. She said without hesitation that tacos are a best seller, followed by Jumbo Jacks and curly fries.
With extra employees on shift Thursday through Saturday, McGowan said the restaurant does its best to accommodate not only the customers, but also the safety of Jack in the Box.
“We have police security sit outside and walk around,” McGowan said.
On the other hand, the manager of International House of Pancakes, James Kelley, said since he was transferred to the Huntsville location, the restaurant has done away with its security.
“I train my managers to prevent problems,” he said. “We save over $8,000 in a year now.”
Kelley said there are certain signs he can look for to guess if his customers may walk out on a ticket or cause problems. Aside from beer bottles in the parking lot and the occasional sick student in the restroom, he said drunken students only occasionally cause problems.
“In cases like that, I ask them to quiet down,” Kelley said. “I’m not trying to cause problems either, I’m just trying to run a business.”
Kelley said what bothers him the most is when four students come in and they are all intoxicated.
“You just have to think, ‘who’s driving?'” Kelley said. “It’s not worth it.”
Kelley said the never ending pancake special that just ended was a big hit late at night, and he expects the same reaction to IHOP’s new stuffed French toast.
According to restaurant managers, employees do not seem to mind working the late night shifts, especially in situations when they can make tips.
Denny’s manager Grace Baucom said her employees actually prefer to work the bar rush shift.
“They can make more money and do better,” Baucom said.
Baucom said most students are pretty well behaved. However, McGowan said she has seen some funny incidents at Jack in the Box.
“One time a drunk fell asleep in the drive through and a cop had to wake him up,” McGowan said.
Jack in the Box employees said it is hard working the bar rush shift, but that they are compensated for their work, so it’s worth it.
Whataburger employees were not able to comment. However, it is very common to see Whataburger’s line backed up to the feeder road at bar closing time.
All in all, employees at 24 hour restaurants said the bar rush on the weekends goes smoothly, with only the occasional outburst from a drunken student.