Sonic Corp., parent company and franchisor of the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants, announced the promotions of two executives within the marketing team. Senior vice president James O’Reilly is being promoted from chief marketing officer to chief brand officer, and Todd Smith is being promoted from vice president of marketing to chief marketing officer. The expanded responsibilities of these executives are a reflection of the success they have brought to the Sonic brand during their tenure.
With more than 60 years in the quick-service game and a robust presence in the South and Central Plains, Sonic Drive-In is making progress in its commitment to expanding across the U.S., primarily through coast-to-coast franchise development. The brand recently placed in the top 6 percent of franchise brands in the Entrepreneur 2014 Franchise 500, coming in as the third highest burger chain among all franchise brands reviewed.
SONIC Drive-In received top honors in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings report by market research organization Temkin Group, moving up to fifth place after earning the seventh spot in 2013. SONIC ranked higher than all other burger chains and tied for fifth place among 268 national brands, and was the only burger quick-service restaurant within the top five brands.
On April 1, Sonic Drive-In announced the Kale Cream Pie Shake to unsuspecting fans—well, April Fools! Though kale is a food trend that can’t be ignored, Sonic is going in a different creative direction as it brings back Summer of Shakes for the second year. Last year’s daring Peanut Butter and Bacon Shake was the unexpected star, but three new flavors for 2014 are equally as exciting, including Oreo Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate Covered Jalapeño. These three mixed shakes, along with 22 other flavors, will be available for half price after 8 p.m.
Some like it hot. And some like it even hotter. Fiery dishes are heating up limited-service menus as operators increasingly recognize consumers’ growing interest in spicy, hot entrées.
A 2013 Consumer Flavor Trend Report by Chicago-based restaurant market research firm Technomic found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) now prefer hot or spicy foods, sauces, dips, and condiments. That’s up from 48 percent in 2011 and 46 percent in 2009.
Sonic Drive-In has given a premium makeover to its fan-favorite Sonic Blast with six new Master Blast flavors. Customers who love Sonic’s Real Ice Cream can take the guesswork out of creating confections of fruit, cookies, candy, and Real Ice Cream by choosing one of six new Master Blast flavors, including Triple Chocolate, Turtle Pecan, Pineapple Upside Down, Banana Split, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Caramel Brownie.
Sonic Drive-In introduced its new Honey Mustard & Swiss Chicken Sandwich and announced the return of the Asiago Caesar Chicken Club Sandwich to its premium chicken lineup. Each sandwich features Sonic’s combination of tangy sauces and savory cheeses, made specifically for customers who crave these classic flavors.
National broadcast advertising creates a large ripple effect across the country, and quick-serve brands are finding that such advertising can be useful in building demand in new and emerging markets.
Using advertisements to build a buzz for a brand that has yet to reach certain regions can lead to consumer excitement and winding lines out the doors of new units, quick-serve brand representatives say.
Following a flurry of recent expansion news, Sonic Drive-In announced another franchise development agreement for six new drive ins in Syracuse, New York, and Watertown, New York, in the next four years. These new commitments are an expansion of an agreement reached in 2013 for five new drive ins in the Rochester, New York, market by a franchise group led by local restaurateur Fran DeSimone. The group is enthusiastic about opportunities for the brand in the area, and they have more than doubled their commitment to the Sonic brand.
This February, Sonic Drive-In is giving guests the chance to enjoy three classic desserts in one with the Red Velvet Molten Cake Sundae. Made with red velvet molten cake on a bed of cheesecake and crowned with a swirl of Sonic’s ice cream, this triple threat takes ‘a la mode’ to the next level.