Mac Is Back

#9 Sonic Drive-In Restaurants

By Nichole L. Torres

Encouraging start-ups: A strong brand name and heaps of development opportunities are Sonic's big draws, according to Sonic Corp. COO and executive vice president Ken Keymer. What's more, franchisees are surrounded by support as they open units in large markets. Sonic puts new operators in contact with veteran franchisees to foster an exchange of information and support.

Recent achievements: Sonic storefronts recently received a face lift. Newly equipped with a "retro-futuristic" look, Sonic is systematically building brand awareness and creating a solid following who drive in for a bite of nostalgia.

Next year's goals: Sonic will continue its brand-focus strategy into the foreseeable future, working on refinements more than anything else.

In 10 years: Sonic will continue to modify its menus and amenities to meet its customers' every desire. With about 2,100 restaurants in operation, Sonic hopes to open another 300 to 350 franchises in the next decade. With its presence already strong in the South, the company is hoping for a Sonic "boom" in the West and Southeast.

Communication is key: If the important issues aren't discussed in roundtables with everyone from crew members to franchisees, they're raised by the Franchise Advisory Council. Conventions, newsletters and regional meetings also provide forums for franchisees to share concerns and ideas with Sonic leaders.

Standout savvy: Sonic franchisees are granted the freedom to innovate within their restaurants. A "Local Favorites" section of the menu allows them to feed their customers exactly what they want. And many community-minded franchisees distribute free-meal cards to local teachers to offer as student incentives.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Mac Is Back.

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