Industry News | March 1, 2012 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Phoenix Sonic Units First With Online Ordering Groupon

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Customers at 30 Sonic Drive-In locations in the Phoenix area this week became the first with access to a restaurant Groupon exclusively for online orders.

Sonic partnered with OLO Online Ordering to launch the Groupon offer, which lets customers purchase a Groupon, find a Sonic unit, place their order, and choose a pick-up time, all from their mobile phone or online. The offer is available through SonicOnTheGo.com, the company’s online ordering site.

Noah Glass, founder of OLO Online Ordering, says there have been several critics of the daily deal industry, mostly because of two problems that frustrate operators.

“The two big issues that continue to come up are, No. 1, it’s really hard to train employees in how to do the redemption process,” Glass says.

“No. 2 is the standard thing of, ‘How do I know these people are new customers? And how do I know they are actually not just one-time customers, but are actually going to come back and visit my restaurant again?’”

Glass says the online ordering Groupon helps to quell those redemption and retention fears by automating the process. There is also an added bonus in that any customers who wish to purchase the Groupon must also sign up for an account at SonicOnTheGo.com.

“The benefit there, even if the customer doesn’t opt in to being part of their e-mail marketing list, is now we’ve got a fingerprint of that customer and we can track if they come back and use the account again in the future,” Glass says.

The exclusive offer, which is available in units owned by Sonic franchise group Mason-Harrison-Ratlif, gives customers the option of spending $5 for $10 worth at Sonic, or $7 for $15 worth.

The offer has already been successful. As of noon Wednesday, Sonic had sold more than 4,300 Groupons, which is more than four times the average for a Groupon. Further, three times as many customers have purchased the $15 offer than the $10 offer, Glass says.

He says that even though there haven’t been many high-profile success stories for national daily deals, he believes it is possible for a national quick-serve chain to succeed with one.

“That’s why we’ve tried to automate some of the areas where the others have struggled with redemption and tracking retention, to really show an easy operational way of managing the flow of daily deals, and being able to track on the finance side the ROI that you get out of that daily deal,” he says.

By Sam Oches