MARIETTA — The Marietta Diner will keep its 24/7 drive-thru running permanently, after installing a temporary one to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and related restaurant closures, the diner’s owner says.

Owner Gus Tselios spoke proudly about his restaurant’s new drive-thru on Thursday, as he watched cars pass through. He said when dine-in traffic was barred because of fears of spreading the virus, the restaurant shifted to a temporary drive-thru to keep money coming in.

But, when the existing drive-thru at another of his restaurants, Yeero Village in Roswell, proved wildly successful during its dining room closures, Tselios said he had an idea. The Marietta Diner underwent a small renovation to create payment and pickup windows, as well as a takeout station inside the building separated from the existing lobby. The takeout station handles call-ahead and food delivery orders.

When the temporary drive-thru opened in March, it served thousands of free meals to bring attention to the fact that it was available. A line of cars a quarter-mile long snaked around the parking lot and down Cobb Parkway when the MDJ visited that month.

Tselios said then that providing the free meals was also a way to help local families who had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, Tselios said, if it weren’t for the pandemic, The Marietta Diner would likely never have had a drive-thru. Dine-in traffic has returned, and the drive-thru is now operating simultaneously, he said.

“I would have never, ever imagined Marietta Diner having a drive-thru,” he said. “I was a little nervous to pull it off because of how busy we are ... but it just flows. It’s not a problem. I believe it’s because we had a lot of time to practice it.”

Tselios said the drive-thru’s menu is limited, though it still includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert options. If a customer wants any item off the full menu from the diner, he said the staff will still make it — it may just take a few extra minutes.

“I really don’t know of any drive-thru that serves real food 24 hours a day. There’s place to go for a 24-hour drive-thru, but they’re limited. (Here), you want strawberry cheesecake to take home, you don’t even have to get out of your car,” he said, adding that the diner has become a popular late night drive-thru option for students attending the nearby Kennesaw State University. “It’s not fast food. It’s real good food fast.”

Douglasville resident Martin Greer came through the drive-thru on Thursday after noticing it while heading home from work. Greer said he used to live near and frequent the diner, so he decided he’d bring home a meal for himself and his girlfriend. He said when he told his girlfriend the diner had opened a drive-thru, she immediately started giving him her order.

Greer said though the drive-thru might be a little slower than McDonald’s or Wendy’s, it’s worth the wait.

“I love it,” he said. “You don’t have to get out of your car, and stopping by late-night is an ultimate plus. You can come here and get a variety of things.”

Len Ogin, of Marietta, said the diner has also been a favorite spot of his since he moved to the area from New Jersey about a year and a half ago. As he waited in line, Ogin said he also dines in from time to time, and now he’ll be visiting more frequently both inside and out.

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Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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