What Makes the Varsity so Successful When There’s Plenty of other Chain restaurants in Atlanta?

varsity sign


The Varsity: One-of-a-Kind Dining

Recently over the course of this semester we have studied and analyzed multiple locations and gave vast insight of the environment. Between Moreland Avenue, The Varsity and the Atlanta Police Department, the Varsity particularly had a greater impact on me than the other two. The first thing noticeable was the red and white colors and the old-style sports theme, which instantly attracted me to the restaurant. Upon walking through the door a loud “what’ll ya have” will overtake the visitor and make them take notice of the fast paced restaurant they have just entered. The fast paced environment doesn’t make the guest feel uneasy, but at a place you can call home. As you approach the counter you’re studying the menu to find they serve burgers, chilidogs, world famous onion rings, and the exclusive one-of-a-kind frosted orange (a frozen orange sherbet type of drink). After you give your order and receive your food, you go look for a seat but notice each room is different. In one room you have school desks as if you were back in elementary school, while in the next room you have booths and tables with a few TV’s displaying the current sports game, and in the last room you see booths and glass windows displaying a scenic view of Atlanta. As you make your choice and sit down, you begin to eat and taste the dry hamburger with non-melted cheese, basic condiments, and chili hit your lips and you’re in awe. You’re not in awe of the taste, but the lack of quality the food has, but you still continue to eat. You’re still excited but every bite seemingly less appetizing until finally you’ve finished and can enjoy your frosted orange in peace. You leave full and moderately satisfied but with an experience you enjoyed, so you’ll probably come back the next time you crave a frosted orange. The Varsity in Atlanta is a major tourist attraction, while tending to celebrities and even our president, Barak Obama. Why do we insist on coming to an average fast food restaurant that has not only limitations to just Georgia, but also doesn’t excite our taste buds like they do our experience? The Varsity Creates a one-of-a-kind experience but lacks in quality of food, are moderately pricey, and have limited locations. To be this popular, the Varsity must expand, whether it is further in Georgia or out-of-state, lower prices, and focus more on the quality of the food they serve. These simple fixtures will give guests a reason to come to this particular fast food restaurant as opposed to Zaxby’s, Cookout, Chick-fil-A, and so forth.

nigger prez


nasty ass cheese burgernasty ass food


What’s the Current Issues with the Varsity?

Atlanta is one of the most well-known cities in the nation and has millions of visitors from out of the state each day. In 2012 alone, Atlanta had 42 million visitors breaking records and putting Atlanta at the prestigious level of California and its major cities (Los Angeles, San Diego) and including Las Vegas, Nevada. With this many visitors passing through Atlanta, the Varsity needs to do everything they can to increase customers, thus increasing profitability. The first thing the Varsity needs to change is the quality of their food. When receiving a meal, the food tends to come out dry and not fresh at all. Customers would rather have a fresh burger with freshly melted cheese and condiments and wait a little longer than have a poorly made burger. In fast food restaurants time is of the essence but so is quality. It is important to maximize efficiency while producing top quality foods. Food critic Todd Brock commented on the Varsity’s burgers saying “This burger (and don’t kid yourself; the menu’s other hamburgers are no better, not even with that otherwise – glorious chili sauce) is exactly on par with your standard god awful grade-school-cafeteria burger… The only upsides I can come up with are that it’s inexpensive, and that after six bites, it’s gone forever.” With reviews of such, the Varsity loses thousands of customers (essentially profits) daily. The next thing the Varsity has issues with is pricing. Although it may seem moderately cheap on the menu, items are sold individually rather than a meal deal. Competitors like Wendy’s, Burger King, Cookout, and McDonald’s offer meals with a fresh burger (or chicken sandwich by choice), hot fries, and chicken nuggets for a low price of four dollars. To compete with other fast food restaurants the Varsity must lower their prices or come up with some sort of meal or dollar menu (much like McDonald’s) that makes people want to choose the Varsity over other chained fast food restaurants. Yelp has the average cost around ten dollars a person, which is fairly high for the line of food they serve. If the Varsity wants to compete with its competitors, it must come up with a value meal or menu to entice customers. The last thing the Varsity needs to do is expand their locations. Currently there are five major Varsity locations: Downtown Atlanta (most popular), Gwinnett, Athens, Marietta, and two inside of the Hartsfield Jackson Airport. Because of such limitations, the maximum profits that could be achieved are lowered. A wise professor once told me, “if you’re not growing (in business terms), you’re shrinking.” The Varsity, fortunate enough, has built a reputation here in Atlanta and has customers from all over the globe, but if they expanded and grew outside of Metro Atlanta and possibly to other states, they could become one of the top grossing fast food restaurants. Unfortunately, a recent Alpharetta location shut down due to operating costs and not enough revenue brought in. This recent shut down puts limitations on locations and makes it difficult to get to the Varsity causing a loss in potential revenue. Overall, the Varsity has several changes it needs to make to improve customer experience, increase sales revenue, and inquire more customers to all locations.




What Can The Varsity Do To Become a “Must Go To” Fast Food Restaurant?

Downtown Atlanta is probably the best location to have this restaurant, with Georgia Tech right across the street and the Phillips Arena and the Georgia Dome a few miles further. I recommend for the Varsity to expand beyond Atlanta and beyond Metro Atlanta. Currently, the Varsity has five prime locations and soon to be sixth in Winder, Georgia. Although they are expanding by one location, it is North near the Gwinnett location still causing an inconvenience to thoe from the southern part of Georgia. If any expansion in Georgia happens, it needs to be further south where communities are starting to grow such as: Henry County, Macon, and around Savannah or Valdosta. Essentially, adding only northern locations they are making it more convenient to their customers, but just spreading revenue out among the locations, rather than increasing revenue. Atlanta (where the prime location is located) is located towards the North West part of Georgia, leaving the southern part of Georgia less likely to experience this environment and restaurant. Also, the Varsity should consider expanding outside of Georgia and possibly expand to Alabama, Tennessee, or South Carolina. I recommend these particular states because we are all located in the Southeast and making a leap to New York or California could be extremely costly and very competitive. The next thing I recommend for the Varsity is to take more time when preparing food and, if needed, find another supplier who will supply the restaurant with quality produce for the lowest price. Food critics are constantly blogging on the low quality food the Varsity serves (especially the burgers) which, instead of receiving a five star rating, the Varsity only receives a three star rating. A simple fixture of taking more time on the food and ensuring it is freshly prepared and freshly made can be the difference in a five star dining experience and a three star. The Varsity has the experience, they have the customers, and they have the customer service, the Varsity just needs to up their food quality and their ratings would sky rocket and customer base would increase exponentially. The Varsity creates an once-in-a-lifetime experience and should consider expanding and increasing food quality over quantity.




The Varsity Today

The Varsity was founded in 1928 by Frank Gordy, starting the untouchable “what’ll ya have” tradition. Currently the Varsity in Downtown Atlanta is known as the ‘World’s Largest Drive-In Restaurant’ and can fit roughly six hundred cars and eight hundred guests inside the building. With a title like this, it is no wonder why people from all over the globe come to visit. On Georgia Tech game days alone, the Varsity roughly sees around thirty thousand people in one day. Each say the Varsity ends up using (straight from their website which can be found in the citations) “two miles of hotdogs, a ton of onions, twenty-five hundred pounds of potatoes, five thousand fried pies, and three hundred gallons of chili.” Along with Dine-In and Take-out, the Varsity also offers a drive in system which car hops (employees who bring food to your car as you order through them or a machine) bring you your meal. The Varsity offers plenty of ways to receive their traditional food, but perhaps you’re unavailable to make it their or you’re having an office meeting, the Varsity also offers catering. The Varsity continues to grow and become a “must go to” in Atlanta for its rare experience, ball park food, and retro tradition.


drive in


Why Is The Varsity So Successful and What Makes Them Different from Competitors?

The Varsity is one of the most extremely successful fast food restaurants in the nation. Holding the title of “World’s Largest Drive-in,” to serving nearly thirty thousand people in a single day, the Varsity creates and gives an experience you can’t receive anywhere else. So how does the Varsity differ from other fast food restaurants who offer similar and sometimes better food? It’s simple, the Varsity, unlike Zaxby’s, Wendy’s, or McDonald’s offers three types of forms to receiving food; They have walk-in/take-out, drive-in, and dine in, whereas the competitors only offer drive thru or dine in. The Varsity also has fewer locations. While having fewer locations can harm them, it also helps them. Having fewer locations creates supply and demand; because they have fewer locations (supply) the demand for the Varsity, while in Atlanta or near the other locations, is increased causing customers to prefer the Varsity. Nowhere else can you get shouted at with “what’ll ya have” and feel as comfortable as you would at the Varsity. It’s the franchise saying for every order and creates a rush of excitement as you are thrust into the fast paced restaurant style. Little things in the restaurant business matter and because the Varsity creates that life changing experience, customers will settle for a lesser quality of food and understand everyone there is trying to get the same (but different) experience as those surrounding them. Success isn’t made over night and the traditions that brought the Varsity to where it is today, will continue to create success as they choose to expand this experience across the globe.




Works Cited

Brock, Todd. “The ‘Influential’ Burger (That Influences You to Order Chili Dogs Instead) at The Varsity in Atlanta.” Burgers. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016

Reed, Kasim. “Atlanta Popular with Tourists, but Numbers Lack Clarity.”@politifact. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

“The Varsity :: What’ll Ya Have!” The Varsity :: What’ll Ya Have! N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016

Annotated Bib. “The Varsity in Atlanta: Where memories (and chili dogs) are made”

Brock, Wendell. “The Varsity in Atlanta: Where Memories (and Chili) Are Made.” The Varsity in Atlanta: Where Memories (and Chili) Are Made. Atlanta Journal Constitution, 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


In this article of Atlanta hot spot, The Varsity, author Wendell Brock explains the “magic” behind the success and popularity of the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. Brock explains, it’s not the food that impresses him or the customer service, but “…this venerable institution is how little it has changed” is what impresses him to this day. Brock discusses the color wave and the old time style pattern which allows reminiscences of previous occurrences in the past. Brock goes as far as describing the plate and how the food is delivered that makes remember the first time he had the Varsity in the 1980’s.

This article benefits my research by allowing a deeper insight into the company, past the food and past the service to see a part of history. Brock showed the history behind the Varsity and what makes it a high demand even after all these years. The food may not be all that good nor the customer service (compared to articles explaining the service) but the memories created there will last a lifetime. That is definitely going to open my mind and think greater and further than just what is in front of me at the moment, but into the depth and history behind the little things (plates, cups, attire, food, etc.).

Annotated Bib. “The Varsity: Owners of Atlanta Icon Face a Big Decision”

Kempner, Matt. “The Varsity, Atlanta’s Chili Dog Palace, Considers Its Future.” The Varsity, Atlanta’s Chili Dog Palace, Considers Its Future. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


In this article published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, author Matt Kempner explains the recent shutting down of the Alpharetta location Varsity. In doing so, he also received word from president Gordon Muir, that the future plans of The Varsity is to open multiple smaller locations throughout the state (Winder being the first one to be established). Kempner then explains the reason the Varsity is of such high demand. Matt Kempner states “When I was indoctrinated enough to order a Frosted Orange drink at the Athens restaurant just by saying, “I’ll have an F.O.,” it may have been the first time I felt like I had become a legit Georgian,” giving hints the food isn’t what brings customers back, but the customer service and the relationship built between the restaurant and customer keeps The Varsity thriving.


This article is beneficial for my research with my interior built environment analysis, as it lays a foundation to what I should be looking for within The Varsity. This article, much like the one previously posted, focuses a lot on customer service and the relationship built between the restaurant and customer. Although the food is only considered decent, because of this article, I will be allowed to focus more on the relationships and things (according to the recent articles I’ve read) that keep The Varsity one of the most famous restaurants in Atlanta.

Annotated Bib. “The Varsity: Atlanta’s Classic Car Keeps on Cruising”

Olmsted, Larry. “The Varsity: Atlanta’s Classic Car Hop Keeps on Cruising.”USA Today. Gannett, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


In this article, author Larry Olmsted critics one of Atlanta’s most famous landmarks, The Varsity. He begins the article by explaining the scene and mood set around the restaurant, relaxed and a sporty feel to it. Olmsted also went into detail on all the restaurant has to offer including: dine-in, carry-out, or to-go through a window (much like sonic). Olmsted also told the capacity at which it can hold (600 cars and 800 diners). He later began to get in depth with the food and service, like a critic should, and pointed out the strengths and flaws. Olmsted even related to an past occurrence stating that “…the service is the same friendly, if a bit abrupt, smooth operation it has been since I first visited 20 years ago.” Olmsted pointed out many flaws and strengths in The Varsity, but ultimately agreed it was a “road-trip cuisine.”

I plan to use this article to help with my in-depth research of The Varsity as an interior design. This article really points out the history behind The Varsity with its customer service and popular food. This article is beneficial to me and my research, as it allows more depth and understanding of what I am studying to realize The Varsity is more than a restaurant, it is a part of history and has been since 1928.


Moreland Ave. Mixtape



Chip – Moreland Ave. 2015. Atlanta.

In this photo of the Moreland Avenue exit sign off of I-20, it is shown on an album cover of an artists’ mixtape. This image displays city and the hip-hop culture intertwined as one to create a voice overheard with recognition to the area.