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This year's theme is "Surfin' for Sonic Gold," since all finalists will travel to San Diego for the awards ceremony at the Sonic National Convention in September. Last year, the Dr. Pepper Sonic Games received the top honor for incentive programs in the Food Service Operation category at the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators Conference (MUFSO).
Created in 1994 when Sonic Drive-In expanded its Carhop of the Year program to encompass all the drive-in crew positions, the Olympic-style competition now includes categories for Carhop (food delivery), Fountain (drink preparation), Switchboard (service delivery), Dresser, Grill and Swamp (food preparation).
Many methods are used to score the individual drive-ins including mystery shopping and other exciting programs. One such program is called "Surfin' for Sonic Crew." In this contest, crew members receive incentives to recruit potential employees. The "Singin' for Sonic Gold" contest involves drive-ins being phoned and the individual answering the phone must answer a series of questions and can score extra bonus points by singing a Sonic jingle. The "Gnarly Dude Cleaning Game" is another example of how Sonic uses fun and prizes to enhance their employee's work environment. In this game, crew members "find" stickers in hidden places and win prizes for their thoroughness in cleaning.
"One of the primary purposes of the Dr. Pepper Sonic Games is to enhance customers' experiences by achieving a higher level of customer service," says Ken Keymer, president and chief operating officer for Sonic. "As a result, everybody wins—crew members win through better training, development and knowledge; customers win through improved service.
The competition is divided into two categories: Individual and Team. During the months of March through July, crew members take tests and participate in action trials in their areas of expertise. The crew member at each station who scores the highest total points is named the Station Champion and earns the chance to compete in the National Finals if the drive-in team is selected.
The ten drive-ins with the highest overall scores are flown to the National Finals, where the Station Champions compete for more than $5,000 in cash prizes and the chance to be named National Champions. After competing, participants then proceed to Sonic's National Convention for the awards ceremony in San Diego that honors all competing teams. More than 1,800 Sonic Drive-Ins are participating in the 2001 Games.
Sonic, which specializes in made-to-order fast food, is known for its specialty menu items and personal Carhop service. Popular menu items include Toaster Sandwiches, (Chicken Club and Bacon Cheddar Burger on thick Texas Toast), Extra-Long Cheese Coneys (hot dogs with chili and cheese), hamburgers, fresh-made Onion Rings, Tater Tots and a variety of Frozen and Fountain Favorites such as Cream Pie Shakes and Cherry Limeades.
Sonic started as a hamburger and root beer stand in 1953 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and has grown to more than 2,200 drive-ins in 28 states.