Drive-In-Loving Franchisees, Take Note: Sonic to Open 1,000 Restaurants in Next 10 Years
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Today, the burger chain announced plans to open 1,000 new drive-ins in the next 10 years. The Oklahoma City-based chain, which has 3,500 locations concentrated in the South and Central Plains, is hoping to expand more fully into coastal regions.
The franchise reportedly expects to open 40 to 50 new restaurants this year, and to add 60 to 70 outlets in 2015 and 80 to 90 the year after. For comparison, the chain only opened 27 drive-ins in 2013.
"Our growth strategy will focus on identifying current and new franchise partners to develop drive-ins in established locations, areas with low penetration and completely untouched markets," said Sonic's chief development and strategy officer John Budd in a statement.
Earlier this year, Sonic pledged to open 300 drive-ins by 2020 in the relatively Sonic-free state of California. This year, Sonic has already signed franchise agreements for 24 new drive-ins in Los Angeles and upstate New York.
"We know that people across the country see our commercials and crave our food – we hear from them all the time," said Budd in a statement. "Now, we want to be able to meet the demand.”
Sonic's sales have supported the company's plan for growth so far in 2014. In the company's second quarter, the chain reported a 1.4 percent growth in same-store sales, with net incoming totaling $4.1 million, compared to $3.6 million in the same period in 2013.
As the franchise expands, one of its biggest challenges will be making its distinctive brand palatable from coast-to-coast. Customers in crowded cities and chillier northern climates are less likely to embrace the drive-in concept that has allowed Sonic to thrive in the central U.S. However, Sonic seems ready to adjust to Northern tastes: Buffalo Sonic restaurants will feature an enclosed dining areas, where guests can eat in their car or seated at a table.