Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q is updating its image, and it is doing so by tapping into its roots.

Franchisees cheered the unveiling of the revamped Sonny’s BBQ that includes the new name, logo, décor, and prototype restaurant. The changes are designed to morph the 45-year-old restaurant’s image from that of an iconic Southern mainstay to one of a dynamic showplace for barbecue culture and cuisine.

“Sonny’s has always been at the forefront of defining great barbecue,” says CEO Bob Yarmuth. “Because it is in our roots, our passion for barbecue must shine through.”

More than 600 franchise owners, vendors, and corporate employees gathered at the Omni Resort Orlando at ChampionsGate for the restaurant’s annual convention. The unveiling was part of a three-day program that emphasized Sonny’s BBQ corporate culture and outlined changes for them to invigorate the brand.

Brandon Manly, Sonny’s COO and executive pitmaster, says those changes are designed to capture the passion of the brand’s pioneering, slow-cooked fare while creating expansion opportunities in the future.

Part of that is raising the profile of local Sonny’s pitmasters by bringing them out of the kitchen and into the spotlight.

The local pitmaster is a crucial link to the community, says Dominic Losacco, marketing vice president. That theme is incorporated into the new Sonny’s logo, which boasts “local pitmasters since ’68,” a nod to the year the first Sonny’s restaurant opened.

The company plans eventually to have a certified pitmaster at each location, Losacco says.

Push, an Orlando, Florida–based advertising company, played a critical role in crafting the brand refresh, and will provide creative and social media services for Sonny’s.

“We are telling the Sonny's story, one rooted in the ideals of the true barbecue experience, and using genuine pitmasters to convey passion for their craft and a commitment to Southern hospitality,” says John Ludwig, Push CEO.

The branding changes coincide with explosive growth in barbecue’s popularity as an all-American dining alternative and competitive sport. Syndicated television programs, such as “BBQ Pitmasters,” have brought the art of slow-cooked meats, ingenious marinades, and sweet, zesty, and spicy rubs and sauces to the masses.

“Sonny’s can easily justify its claim of being a purveyor of genuine barbecue,” Manly says. “But that doesn’t mean we are sitting back. If anything, these changes show we are as eager and as capable as ever of delivering creative, flavorful barbecue that is second to none.”

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