The Varsity launches re-imagined carhop experience

Two-lane drive-thru, massive parking lot enable faster service, in-car dining

When the Varsity halted drive-in service at its iconic Midtown location in early July because of the pandemic , it seemed to mark the end of an era . Would car hops ever come back asking, “What’ll ya have?” to patrons in cars with a hankering for a hot dog and an F.O.?

As it turns out, yes.

The Atlanta-based, family-operated fast-food chain has begun a new chapter in food service by car, having opened a two-lane drive thru earlier this month.

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Customers who want to patronize the Varsity but remain in their cars still pull in from North Avenue. But rather than park in one of the covered drive-in spots, they drive up the parking deck ramp and pull into one of two ordering lanes. There, they are met by carhops who use handheld devices to take their orders and handle payment by credit card. In short order, runners bring dogs and drinks to vehicles. Patrons interested in eating on the premises can park in any available spot on the lot. Vehicles can exit on North Avenue or Spring Street.

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Compared to the good old drive-in days, “we’re serving more cars now. It’s so much faster,” said Ashley Weiser, the Varsity’s marketing director and great-granddaughter of founder Frank Gordy. “The fastest someone would get out of the drive-in was 20 minutes. Now, it’s like five.”

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Weiser noted that, since the drive-thru’s Sept. 2 debut, plenty of patrons seem to prefer to stick around and enjoy their meal on-site. “People stay and eat and talk on the phone. They can still get the Varsity carhop experience.”

Is the Varsity change permanent?

“I can’t tell that now,” Weiser said. “I don’t see us going back anytime soon because it is working so well and our customers seem to like the new process.”

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