The commercial use of driverless vehicles has been on the edge of the technology horizon for a number of years now. Tests have been performed on city streets and highways, and a few small-scale companies have even begun using autonomous cars as revenue generators in low-traffic regions. But now a Colorado Springs franchise of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue is shuttling kalua pork, loco moco and Spam musubi to waiting customers with no delivery drivers in sight as a way to conduct contactless food service.
Okay, so the vehicle in question is too small for a driver to fit into, and it never leaves the parking lot of the Barnes Marketplace shopping center at 5850 Barnes Road, where Bob and Eva Stetler and their daughter, Melanie Corbett, have operated a branch of the Hawaiian eatery for more than a decade. The family recently started using a remote-control SUV hitched to a miniature Radio Flyer wagon to send food orders to customers waiting in their cars.
The delivery system is mostly a way of adding a fun and entertaining element to the ongoing social-distancing regulations preventing customers from eating in L & L's dining room or lining up at the counter inside. The pint-sized SUV comes from Bob Stetler's collection of remote-controlled vehicles; he added L & L stickers and flags to help spread "the aloha spirit," according to the company.
"We started doing it on Friday, and it has been great seeing the customers smile when they see it roll out," Corbett explains. "We take food out to about twenty customers a day with it."
The restaurant uses the vehicle mainly during its lunch hour, since current city and state rules only allow five customers inside the building at a time, all standing at least six feet apart (with lines on the floor to indicate proper spacing). Right now, the restaurant is taking online and phone orders and is outfitting employees with gloves and masks for safe hand-off, in addition to the mini SUV.
Corbett grew up in Hawaii before moving to Colorado Springs with her husband, and her parents joined her soon afterward; the Stelters opened their L & L location in 2007, and Corbett came on board as a co-owner last year. The restaurant is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit the L &L Hawaiian Barbecue — Colorado Springs Facebook page for videos of the delivery SUV in action.