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Restaurant Parking Lots Have Become Prime Hiding Spots for Parents

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 5/12/2020 Maria Yagoda
a sign on the side of a road: Potbelly is testing "Alone Time Parking Spots" for parents to find some peace and quiet away from crying children. © Courtesy of Potbelly Sandwich Shop Potbelly is testing "Alone Time Parking Spots" for parents to find some peace and quiet away from crying children.

For parents with children at home, quarantining has been... intense, as many juggle home-schooling and working remotely full time. Parents are having a difficult time carving out alone time, as stress-relievers like meeting up with friends for a drink or going to the gym have become public health risks. On Tuesday, the sandwich chain Potbelly announced that it's  testing a creative solution: parking spots designated specifically for parents, where they can enjoy alone time and eat some food in peace and quiet. Or just cry.

Since stay-at-home orders began, cars have been prime hiding spots for parents who can't find quiet in their homes, so it's a smart move for Potbelly to consider reinventing mostly deserted parking lots. Many restaurants across the country have found themselves trying to make the most out of their empty parking lots, which are prime for social distancing; some have turned them into drive-in movie theaters. Parking lots can accommodate spaced-out cars for all sorts of activities, including eating a sandwich and crying, as parents can now do at select Potbellys.

"Like everyone else on earth, my world has become a tiny sliver of what it used to be," Regan Stephens, a Food & Wine contributor and mother of three loud daughters, told me. "There aren't many places I can be totally alone and get the same level of quiet I used to get back when they were in school, so now, I take to the car. I volunteer to pick up takeout, or grocery shop, just so I can spent the alone time on the drive. Sometimes, afterward, I sit in the parking lot and listen to a podcast or scroll through Instagram, all alone, as a treat."

“Alone Time” Parking is being tested at select Potbellys in the Chicago suburbs, and hopefully it catches on more widely. Though parents have already been hiding in cars long before coronavirus, and will continue to long after.

"If the experiment works," read a press release from the sandwich chain, "Potbelly is considering adding an additional parking space for teens who are tired of watching their parents awkwardly try TikTok dances."

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