Illinois couple turns van into mobile dining experience


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Typically, restaurants would be full of people this time of year. Unfortunately, it’s just not an option for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One couple from suburban Chicago decided if you can’t go to the restaurant, why not bring the restaurant to you?

For Doug and Kim White, food is a language of love. When restaurants were forced to close due to the pandemic, the White’s saw an opportunity.

“We were driving around on Wednesday, lamenting that we weren’t going to be able to go out to eat anymore. And Doug says, ‘I wish we had an RV, then we could actually go out and eat and just pull up in a parking lot,'” Kim said.

Two days and $100 later, the couple turned their Ford Transit van into a mobile dining room.

“It really wasn’t that difficult because it was already a cargo van. It was a blank slate. So, I wanted to put a rug in there just to make it a little cozier. I found a 4-foot folding table from Menards. We had folding chairs at home. So, all we really needed was to get the lights and the tablecloth,” Doug explained.

The couple started sharing their van dining experience on social media and local restaurants began to take notice.

The couple said restaurants wanted to plate their meals for the experience and for social media.

Every dish was a work of art on a plate. And for Doug, a way to escape.

“I got diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in June and been going through chemotherapy,” Doug said. “This is been an outlet that I didn’t think about me being sick. Let’s go out and actually have some fun. But I’ve gained four pounds.”

One of the White’s favorite restaurants to visit pre-pandemic is Palmer’s Place.

Palmer’s Place has been in Steve Palmer’s family for decades. He said the extra publicity from Doug and Kim’s van dining has given his business and others a much-needed boost.

“The news coverage happening from all this is helping all these small restaurants these small businesses stay open and stay afloat. So, one good news story or one good thing could make that bill this week,” Palmer said.

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White said he’s doing his part to keep some restaurants open.

“I think this has all been pretty overwhelming because we didn’t expect it to take off like it has. And we’re enjoying, you know, trying to keep some restaurants open,” White said.

White said the van has also brought a smile to those passing by it.

“I’ve had people walk by and back up and go, ‘just made my day. This is so cool. ‘ And so if it brings a smile to other people that are just around, that’s even better. You know, we need more smiles at this time,” White said.

Since late October the White couple have taken their mobile van to 13 local restaurants, posting each one on Facebook. They now have more than 650 followers.

The White’s say you don’t have to have a van to make this mobile dining experience happen. They’ve inspired others to create lap desks to eat in their cars.

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