The SONIC Menu Maximizes Five Dayparts
We call it Menu Heaven; customers call it delicious
At SONIC®, we keep our carhops hopping and our customers happy with a profitable and popular menu that’s appealing day or night, whether diners want a chili cheese dog, a cherry limeade or a traditional burger. The variety that SONIC provides throughout our five strong, balanced and distinct dayparts is unmatched by competitors who are typically just known as “the burger place” or “the chicken place.” Other QSR concepts and burger franchises have only one or two strong dayparts; SONIC is busy serving fresh, hot items morning through night.
We prepare all our food fresh to order, and we never place sandwiches under warming lights. We grill our tasty burgers and whip up our amazing drinks from scratch. At SONIC, we believe in giving customers what they want, how they want it. Maximizing menu options across all five dayparts translates to an excellent ROI for investors.
“You’ve got 24-hour real estate with a SONIC. Utilizing the real estate, the equipment and the labor as efficiently as possible is great from an investment perspective. You leverage your real estate instead of having lunch and dinner be all your business. You leverage your staff. It’s a more efficient operation,” says CEO Cliff Hudson.
We are traditionally built on a burger, Coney and fries menu with 48 percent of our business taking place during the lunch and dinner hours, but our diverse menu keeps customers coming in all day and all night. Our afternoon Happy Hour promotion does phenomenally well, driving 23 percent of business. Whether customers want a quick, on-the-go breakfast, an after-school treat or dinner after a ball game, the diverse menu at our burger franchises offers something for everyone. Our burgers and hot dogs are delicious, our natural-cut fries and crispy, golden tots are a delectable sidekick, and our milkshakes, made with real ice cream, are the perfect “just because” treat.
“SONIC customers use us more broadly in terms rather than just breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s given us a great platform to use our innovation to be able to make each of those dayparts more relevant. There are dollars to be spent or consumed, and SONIC is a great choice. Our menu variety is outstanding. You don’t have to just do a combo meal. You can order a dessert or a frozen favorite treat. You can order a drink. You can order a snack. You can do any combination in between. That lends itself to being able to have every daypart contribute in certain ways,” says Senior Vice President of Development Drew Ritger.
More than a burger franchise: Millennials love our menu
Millennials, who were born between 1980 and 2000, make up the largest group of consumers in the United States with a total population of 80 million. They eat out more than their generational predecessors, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Fifty-three percent of Millennials eat out once a week, according to research from Morgan Stanley. SONIC’s menu adaptability appeals to busy Millennials on the go who are spontaneous in their dining habits. Total menu customization and control of the customer experience through the SONIC Drive-In process have always been two keystones of SONIC. For Millennials, that’s fantastic.
“Our dinner and evening business has grown pretty dramatically. Part of it is due to innovation, and part of it is due to consumers’ changing lifestyles. SONIC is easy to adapt to whatever’s happening in your life. It’s okay to come to SONIC after 8 p.m. We promote that. It gives us the ability to really drive sales in that daypart; if you look around, most of our other competitors are pretty lean after 8 at night,” Drew says.
SONIC is always skating circles around its competitors, staying ahead of customer needs. In fact, we were serving breakfast all day long before it became a trend. A National Restaurant Association survey found that 70 percent of Americans want restaurants to serve breakfast throughout the day, and that younger adults love eating breakfast for dinner more than any other age group. Whether it’s a breakfast burrito or a Breakfast Toaster, customers know they can order breakfast any time, day or night.
Customization appeals to consumers
Consumers love SONIC because they can customize their order in countless ways. Burgers are made-to-order, drink combinations range from the classic to the complex and breakfast is on the menu all day long. Whether it’s our classic cherry limeades, our refreshing slushes or our milkshakes made with real ice cream, SONIC has more than a million drink flavor combinations. Our afternoon Happy Hour promotion is a big hit with busy families and individuals on the go, and our drink and ice cream business is quite profitable, keeping us busy consistently between lunch and dinner.
When it comes to competition, SONIC continually stays ahead of the curve. We always have been about customization and optimizing mobile capabilities — whether through our website, app or menu boards — which adds dimension to the customer experience. Our investment in technology creates a digital environment through mobile ordering and payment that takes customization to another level for our customers. This makes it easier to order their SONIC favorites, as well as to create a personalized digital advertising platform that enables us to push tailored promotions to individual customers.
“At the heart of who we are is innovation. We are constantly looking for new ways to make the experience at SONIC greater and more memorable. The people who work at SONIC are incredibly entrepreneurial and courageous and want to make sure we are meeting our consumers’ needs and surprising them,” says Vice President of National Marketing Sarah Beddoe.
SONIC is a social hub in communities of all sizes
In every community we’re in, SONIC stands out as a social gathering place that is bustling with activity — morning, noon or night. Whether it’s a soccer mom taking her kids to get an afterschool treat, a dad grabbing an early dinner for his family on the way to music practice or a group of high school students socializing after a sports practice, SONIC serves as a friendly and predictable constant in the community, where food is always hot and fresh and the service is top-notch.
SONIC is an experiential occasion shared by many families; it’s more than just food. Sarah recalls going to SONIC as a kid to celebrate everyday occasions and, today she takes her children to SONIC after weekend swim lessons.