Continue to Site

    What Inspires Sonic's Chief Brand Officer Jose Dueñas

  • If you’re fulfilling that unique need in your core target better than everyone else, everything else comes into place

    Sonic / KJane Designs
    Jose Dueñas believes technology will play a key role in Sonic's future.

    I spent the first 15 years of my career in CPG with the Kellogg Company in Latin America, then the global market, and finally in the U.S. I’ve always been passionate about foodservice; my wife has a culinary background, and she had a catering business when we were living in Mexico. We have two daughters; one is showing interest in a culinary career. After 16 years in CPG, joining Olive Garden was a bit of a homecoming for me.

    In Latin America, businesses have enough independence for you to develop your career with a general management perspective. I think that set me up to build on my roles in the U.S.—in CPG, then Darden, now Sonic—by having a broad perspective of the business and then understanding how marketing can coordinate with other functions. I think you also make the most of the resources you have—that’s another thing I learned by starting my career in Latin America.

    I really focus on the key technical fundamentals from the marketing perspective. If you’re fulfilling that unique need in your core target better than everyone else, everything else comes into place. Sonic—as with the Olive Garden—is a big, iconic, American brand. The partnership with our franchisees is outstanding. That made it a lot easier coming into that relationship and understanding the DNA of the brand.

    I’m really proud of the development of Special K in the U.S., expanding that brand from just cereal to more than seven different categories in CPG. With Olive Garden, initiatives like the Pasta Pass—unlimited servings of pasta for seven weeks—were both commercially successful and created a lot of positive PR. I think it contributed to the turnaround of the Olive Garden.

    Developing technology in our drive-in format puts Sonic in a great position to redefine what convenience means. With personalization, our guests find exactly what they want—the right combination and flavors—and become loyal guests. Our ability to deliver personalization and our opportunity to redefine convenience are two things that I’m really excited about.


    What was your first job?

    In high school, at a photocopy business that my uncle used to own.

    What’s your favorite menu item at Sonic?

    The Chili Cheese Coney has to be my go-to. But now, the new signature Slinger—the one we’re launching really soon—is becoming my new favorite.

    What’s your favorite food besides Sonic?

    We have a Sunday tradition to pick a recipe and cook as a family. It’s one of those really good traditions. Besides that, I’m only allowed to do grilling and make breakfast. For everything else, my wife would kick me out of the kitchen.

    Who has inspired you as a leader?

    Dave George, the now-COO of Darden, was a great inspiration. In five years he taught me a lifetime on operations. At Sonic, it’s inspiring to work with Cliff Hudson—his passion for the brand, his commitment to that community, and his commitment to diversity.

    What are some of your interests outside of the business?

    I love spending time with the family, and I love music. I was focused on guitar when I was growing up, and I still try to do it once in a while. Usually I get 15 minutes of playtime and then either my wife or my daughters recommend that I switch to headphones.