SONIC Drive-In, the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants, presented 10 awards to franchisees and operators at the 2017 SONIC National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Every year, SONIC recognizes exemplary individuals and franchise groups with a track record of strong leadership skills and action.
Troy Smith Hall of Fame: Gary Kinslow
Named after SONIC’s founder, induction into the Troy Smith Hall of Fame is SONIC’s most prestigious award, given to a franchisee who has worked with SONIC for a notable amount of time while making a significant contribution to the brand in terms of leadership, growth, and positive influence. This year, SONIC presented the Troy Smith Hall of Fame Award to Gary Kinslow, second generation SONIC franchisee and leader of Kinslow SONIC Group. Based in Prague, Oklahoma, Kinslow SONIC Group owns and operates 40 SONIC units in Oklahoma, Texas, and Mississippi. In 1969, at age 14, Kinslow started his career at SONIC as a cook for his father. Now, Kinslow leads his team to provide guests with a remarkable SONIC experience every day.
“Gary has lived and breathed SONIC his entire life and has vast knowledge of the brand,” says Clifford Hudson, CEO of Sonic Corp. “He truly captures the spirit of Troy Smith and the inspiring entrepreneurial spirit of SONIC’s founder.”
Chain Leader Award: Steve Gonzalez
The SONIC Chain Leader Award was presented to Steve Gonzalez, director of the Warren Group, in recognition of his success in exerting both leadership skills and a positive influence on his organization and the SONIC brand. Based in Lubbock, Texas, and operating 24 drive-ins, Gonzalez focuses on retaining good people and building a solid infrastructure through his strong leadership.
Turnaround Operator Award: Norm Kaufman
Norm Kaufman, SONIC franchisee and leader of Brand Ventures, LLC, was presented with the SONIC Turnaround Operator Award. This award honors an individual or group responsible for turning around operations, sales, and profit performance of one or more SONIC Drive-Ins. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Kaufman focused on two areas: guest service and people development. The group has built strong, long-lasting relationships with their employees, demonstrating Kaufman’s belief that developing great people can help turn around any aspect of business.
Great People Award: Buddy McClain
SONIC presented the Great People Award to Buddy McClain, franchisee and leader of McClain, Vaughn, and Partners franchise group. This award is given to an individual or group who has made the recruitment, training, development, and retention of people a top priority and strategy for growth. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, McClain developed an innovative management program and is reaping rewards at his 100 drive-in locations across Mississippi, Texas, and Florida.
Operational Excellence Awards: Eddie Frey and Jeff Simmons
The SONIC Operational Excellence Award was presented to Eddie Frey, operating partner for the D.L. Rogers Group, and to Jeff Simmons, general manager for the Jimmy Hodges franchise group. This honor is awarded to individuals responsible for supervision of less than five drive-ins with a proven track record of upgrading talent and growing sales and profits. Based in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Frey started his career with SONIC as a manager trainee in 2003, and worked his way up to operating partner at three drive-ins located in Hartsville, South Carolina, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Elizabeth City. Simmons, based in Mandeville, Louisiana, started his career with SONIC in 2011 in the kitchen and is now a general manager. Both Frey and Simmons make it a priority to attract guests, build loyalty, and make a positive difference in their local communities.
Multi-Unit Leader Awards: Justin Chandler and Dora Simonds
Justin Chandler, director of operations for MHR Group, and Dora Simonds, director of operations for the Rubyhill Group, are recipients of the Multi-Unit Leader Award. This honor is awarded to individuals responsible for supervising more than five drive-ins with a proven track record of upgrading talent, delivering outstanding guest service and growing financial performance of their drive-ins. Based in Dallas, Texas, Chandler oversees 16 drive-ins in the MHR Group, and is known for his leadership and drive to look for ways to improve in every aspect of the business. Simonds is the director of operations for 11 drive-ins across Denver. In 2000, Simonds started her career at SONIC as a cook. He has grown to become a strong leader with a proven track record of developing talent while growing sales and profits.
Newcomer Award: Cinos, LLC
The Newcomer Award was presented to Cinos, LLC, located on Long Island, New York. Cinos, LLC, owns and operates three SONIC Drive-Ins in New York. This award is given to an individual or franchise group new to the SONIC brand who delivers the SONIC promise to guests every day while achieving strong sales and profits.
Mason Development Award: Mason, Harrison, Ratliff, LLC (MHR)
The Mason Development Award was presented to MHR, a SONIC franchise group led by partners Ralph Mason, Chuck Harrison, and Reeder Ratliff, who own and operate 288 drive-ins across 13 states with their partners. MHR has made outstanding contributions to the development of new drive-ins, as well as the remodeling, rebuilding and relocation of existing drive-ins. Based in Oklahoma City and founded in 1974, MHR is one of SONIC’s largest franchise groups. MHR credits its longtime success to their partners and operators, some of whom have been with the group for more than 30 years.