New President of SONIC Drive-In Opens Up: a Q&A with Claudia San Pedro

Iconic drive-in franchise president explains what makes SONIC a unique, forward-thinking investment opportunity

Claudia San Pedro was promoted to president of SONIC® in February 2018, and after more than 12 years in high-profile positions with the iconic drive-in franchise, San Pedro is uniquely qualified to help lead the growing brand into the future.

In her new role, San Pedro will be primarily responsible for franchisee relationships, managing the supply chain, leading franchise development efforts and business planning. San Pedro’s ascension to president comes as SONIC is emerging as the rare brand that can leverage a 65-year history as a nostalgic, American drive-in franchise into being one of the most forward-thinking franchise systems in the industry.

In the interview below, San Pedro opens up in a wide-ranging conversation about what makes SONIC unique, how SONIC values its franchisees and why SONIC is a brand with a bright future.

What makes SONIC unique in the competitive QSR market?

San Pedro: The restaurant industry is incredibly competitive, and it’s so important to be able to differentiate yourself. One of the reasons I love the SONIC brand is that we’re differentiated on multiple levels. Physically, we’re a drive-in concept — which is more relevant than ever, given technology and how consumers want to access their food. With our concept, the customer controls the process. They decide when they want to order and how they want their food and drinks. Our customers can order anything on our menu any way they want it. Customization is built into our brand’s DNA. We have one of the most distinctive menus in the industry featuring unique sides like hand breaded onion rings, mozzarella sticks and tater tots, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and six-inch premium hot dogs in addition to our real fruit drinks and slushes. Finally, we are differentiated in terms of our service model, which is our personalized carhop. In this day and age, having that personalized carhop experience is a nice way to build relationships with our customers

Why is SONIC so popular with consumers?

San Pedro: We’re not just serving food; we’re creating memories. We can make a bad day go well with good food and drinks. That’s important to us. It’s not food as a survival piece — SONIC is nourishment for the soul. When you come to SONIC, it’s a great way to spend time with your friends and family.

SONIC Drive-In FranchiseSONIC is well-known for its inclusive culture between its franchisees and the executive team. Why is this relationship vital to the success of the SONIC brand?

San Pedro: One of our core values is relationships as a way of life. That is important to us because the franchisor/franchisee partnership is critical to the success of the brand. One of the ways that we really work to live our values is in making sure our franchisees are involved from day one in providing input into any major aspect of our business. Whether it’s a marketing initiative, a development initiative, a technology initiative, or product innovation, our Franchisee Advisory Council is with us from the beginning. They work with us to ideate and test the initiative until we ultimately launch system-wide implementation. We understand that if it weren’t for our franchisees we wouldn’t be successful, so garnering their input and having good discussion and debate about how to move the brand forward is the best way we can all ensure success for the future.

While other brands struggle to recruit younger and more diverse buyers, SONIC is one of the industry’s leading brands in this regard. Why?

San Pedro: Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. Many small businesses begin with one idea that is generated by an independent entrepreneur. What’s wonderful about the franchise business model is that it facilitates that dream. If you look at where we’re able to shine, it’s not only providing opportunities for entrepreneurs whose families may have been here for hundreds of years, and it’s about providing opportunities for new immigrants or second-generation immigrants who want to grow their business. Franchising is an excellent way to start small, and over time, build a large business.

What is special about the culture of SONIC?

San Pedro: The important part of our culture is that you take yourself seriously enough to run a good business, focusing on growing sales and profits. At the same time, you spend a lot of time with the people you work with, and you need to have a good time. We’re only on this earth for a short amount of time, so we really strive to take ourselves seriously when we need to, and we also want to have fun and meet great people along the way.

What is exciting about the future of SONIC?

San Pedro: If you look at the heritage of the brand, we’re more than 60 years old. Many people think of us as a nostalgic, drive-in brand, but the reality is that we’re all about the future. If you had to build a new concept today that could leverage technology in the most relevant, meaningful way to the consumer, providing personalized food and drinks, the ability to order ahead to reduce the friction of waiting in a drive-thru line or having to get out of your car to go indoors, you would build a drive-in model. What’s perfect about it for us is that our heritage is based on doing it the way the consumer wants. So if you want an onion ring on your hamburger, that comes completely naturally to us because that is a part of our brand DNA. Consumers now more than ever want to be able to have as many choices as they can. If you think about the future and how we need to leverage technology to drive a much better customer service experience, we are uniquely suited to deliver on that proposition.

What is the future of SONIC’s franchise development?

San Pedro: We have franchisees who have been a part of our system for 20 and 30 years, and we also have franchisees who have just joined our system. They may start off with 10 drive-ins, and have goals of owning 200 drive-ins over the next 10 years. We have a wonderful balance of new franchisees coming into the system, where SONIC is their first foray into the restaurant industry, as well as franchisees who own multiple other concepts and have significant experience in the restaurant industry.

When you think about SONIC, there are very few brands that garner the brand awareness that we do and have the marketing power that we do, while also having so much green space available to be built upon.

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

For in-depth details about the SONIC Drive-In franchise opportunity, request a copy of our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

SONIC Drive-In CEO Named to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List

Iconic SONIC franchise CEO is highlighted on prestigious annual list of Top 50 most influential people in foodservice

Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) has named SONIC® CEO Cliff Hudson to The Power List 2018, its prestigious annual list of the 50 most influential people in foodservice.

Billed as “the definitive list of industry leaders who are not only setting trends today, but also shaping them for tomorrow,” the leading restaurant industry publication made a fine choice by selecting our CEO.

NRN describes Hudson as  “The Menu Innovator,” and the publication praised his exemplary track record leading the iconic SONIC brand as chief executive officer since 1995.

“J. Clifford Hudson has led Oklahoma City-based quick-service chain SONIC Drive-In as its CEO for the past 22 years,” NRN  reports. “During that time SONIC has grown to more than 3,500 units and led the way in soft-drink innovation — a customization play that Hudson cites as a factor in drawing a disproportionate number of millennial customers. SONIC also has carried out culinary innovations during Hudson’s tenure, including the introduction of hot dogs. Last year, SONIC took a bold move by testing a premium “blended burger,” made with 25 percent to 30 percent mushrooms blended with ground beef.”

The magazine correctly points out that Hudson is known for, “expanding the long-standing quick-service burger chain and bringing it into the 21st century,” and his inclusive and collaborative approach is one of the key reasons why our brand is rapidly growing across the country.

“Hudson has quietly created a leadership team that is unusually diverse for the industry, with most of his senior officials either women or ethnic minorities,” NRN reports. “SONIC is also testing order ahead.”

We encourage you to click here to read the full article on why Hudson has been recognized as one of this year’s most influential people in the foodservice industry.

SONIC is America’s Drive-In®, serving more than 3 million customers a day at more than 3,500 locations nationwide. An iconic brand with a rich heritage encompassing more than 60 years, SONIC believes in excellent customer service and developing core relationships with customers in the communities where our franchise owners operate. We are in the middle of a major nationwide expansion and joining SONIC now makes more sense than ever.

Learn more about SONIC Drive-In franchise opportunities

For in-depth details about SONIC Drive-In franchise opportunities, request a copy of our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

SONIC Drive-In Ranks #6 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500

Iconic SONIC franchise moves up 33 spots to the top 10 on the franchise industry’s most prestigious list

Entrepreneur magazine, a leading business publication, recently unveiled its annual and prestigious Franchise 500 list, and we’re pleased to announce SONIC® ranked #6. This news is especially meaningful considering that SONIC jumped 33 spots from last year’s ranking.

With more than 4,000 franchise systems in the U.S., earning a spot in the prestigious top 10 of the most popular franchise ranking list is a major accomplishment. The Franchise 500 list is widely used by entrepreneurs to select top-performing franchise opportunities and the competition for ranking is fierce, with 80 percent of franchise brands failing to make the list.

What explains our tremendous climb on the 2018 Franchise 500?

Widely regarded as the franchise industry’s preeminent list for entrepreneurs who are seeking a best-bet investment, Entrepreneur rigidly compared more than 1,000 franchise systems to determine their ranking. When we consider that Entrepreneur measured the growth potential of a brand, the level of franchise support provided to franchisees, brand equity and a myriad of other factors, it is no small wonder why SONIC enjoys such a high position on this year’s list.

“We’re tremendously pleased with our high ranking on this year’s Franchise 500,” says Claudia San Pedro, President of SONIC. “This is an incredible time to be a part of SONIC, as our continued investments in new technology, new indoor dining models, menu innovation and our ongoing national advertising campaign positions us for another year of growth. As a franchisor, we work hard to ensure that our franchisees have the tools and resources needed to be successful, and we’re going to continue to find ways to deliver for our franchisees in 2018 and beyond.”

What makes SONIC a Best-Bet Investment in 2018?

SONIC is in the midst of an aggressive expansion that is bolstered by the resounding success of our wildly popular “Two Guys” marketing campaign. The enormous brand equity SONIC enjoys across the country makes it easy for entrepreneurs to bring America’s Drive-In to new communities, where large populations are already craving our delicious and memorable food. In the markets where SONIC is already established, the ease of our business model and the demand for our innovative menu makes scaling up to multiple locations a wise investment for many in our franchise system.

sonic franchise - two guys

Unlike other QSR brands, SONIC franchisees benefit from our five daypart strategy of breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening, as well as a robust and innovative menu that offers customization and choice. Recently, SONIC invested in a new mobile app that is encouraging our customers to connect with us in new ways, such as mobile-ordering and payments.

SONIC is America’s Drive-In®, serving more than 3 million customers a day at more than 3,500 locations nationwide. An iconic brand with a rich heritage encompassing more than 65 years, SONIC believes in excellent customer service and developing core relationships with customers in the communities where our franchise owners operate. We are in the middle of a major nationwide expansion and joining SONIC now makes more sense than ever.

Learn more about SONIC franchise Opportunities

For in-depth details about the SONIC Drive-In franchise opportunity, request a copy of our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

Kamal Singh Acquires 34 SONIC Franchise Locations

Millennial entrepreneur looks forward to a bright future with America’s beloved drive-in franchise

Kamal Singh is one of the most enterprising millennial entrepreneurs in the franchise industry. At the age of 31, Kamal owns more than 25 KFC and KFC/TacoBell locations, and he recently became one of the largest multi-unit franchisees with SONIC after acquiring 34 locations in the Houston area.

With revenues well approaching $70 million annually, Kamal says he chose to make the significant investment in multi-unit ownership with SONIC because of the tremendous profit-potential. SONIC’s 60-year legacy of exceptional food and customer service, as well as our brand’s forward-thinking leadership team was equally attractive to Kamal in the decision-making process.

“SONIC has a terrific, high-quality menu and a long-legacy of connecting with customers,” says Kamal, adding that he has plans to build 20 more SONIC restaurants in the fast-growing Houston area. “I think there is more than enough room to expand by several units in the Houston area. The opportunity is there.”

Born in India, Kamal immigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old. One of his first jobs was as a McDonald’s cashier in high school. After graduating from the University of Houston with a degree in accounting, Kamal says that the turning point in his life came in 2009 when he decided to leave a well-paying accounting position to buy a local sandwich shop.

“Buying my first restaurant was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Kamal says. “At the time, the sandwich shop was completely failing – going into bankruptcy. I had to work hard to quickly transform our operations and learn how to manage a team effectively to turn things around. I’m proud to say that this effort was successful and that this inspired me to invest in the QSR segment with well-known franchise brands.”

Although a very hands-on manager, Kamal has learned to step back and trust his teams to execute and excel. Kamal says he sees operations as the heart of any business model and the key to growth.

“I don’t believe in management, but in leadership,” said Kamal says. “I want to inspire our teams to achieve greatness within themselves.”

One of his goals as a SONIC franchisee is to continue working on leadership development, working alongside our executive team, to provide opportunities for his teams to thrive professionally and fulfill their own goals at his locations.

“I look to enhance my leadership team’s abilities and experiences,” Kamal says. “We have an ear to the ground in our restaurants, and we’re always looking to learn from all levels within our units. We empower our higher-level leaders, and seek to find opportunities for our teams to thrive within the business model.”

Kamal says he also “looks to the industry for best practices to evolve and better execute the brand vision and guest experience.”

Now a family man with two young sons, Kamal is excited to continue his journey as a multi-unit franchisee with SONIC. His hopes for the future are bright with plans to expand in 2018 and beyond.

“I look forward to expanding the footprint in the Houston area going forward,” Kamal says. “SONIC is a strong brand, with enormous brand recognition and an exceptional product. I am excited to track the performance of my locations and build upon their success in the years ahead.”

Become a SONIC Franchise Owner

To learn more about becoming a SONIC Franchise Owner, request a copy of our free franchise report or visit our research pages.

About Sonic

SONIC, America’s Drive-In, is the nation’s largest drive-in restaurant chain serving approximately 3 million customers every day. Nearly 94 percent of SONIC’s more than 3,500 drive-in locations are owned and operated by local businessmen and women. For 64 years, SONIC has delighted guests with signature menu items, 1.3 million drink combinations and friendly service by iconic carhops. Since the 2009 launch of SONIC’s Limeades for Learning philanthropic campaign in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, SONIC has donated $9.5 million to public school teachers nationwide to fund essential learning materials and innovative teaching resources to inspire creativity and learning in their students. To learn more about Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ/NM: SONC), please visit sonicdrivein.com and please visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. To learn about SONIC’s Limeades for Learning initiative, please visit LimeadesforLearning.com.

Amhad Awik Finds Lifetime Career with SONIC

Executive has ongoing passion for SONIC operations

After arriving in the United States from Lebanon to attend college, SONIC® quickly became one of Ahmad Awik’s favorite dining spots.

As a student, Ahmad became a regular customer. He and his wife would go on dates to take advantage of Family Night which featured savings on burgers.

Ahmad’s love for SONIC continues to grow. In 1993, he joined SW Karma, LLC and today serves as its vice president of operations. The group owns and operates more than two dozen SONIC Drive-Ins.

“I don’t feel like I’m working,” Ahmad says. “I feel like I’ve been investing my time with my people. I don’t call it work. I call it a passion.”

Reflecting upon the day he saw a lighted “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a SONIC Drive-In located on Butler Avenue in Flagstaff, Ahmad realized that he valued his customer experience with SONIC so much that he wanted to work there.

“I just went in and shook the manager’s hand and said I’d really like to have an opportunity here, but my hours are limited,” he says. “The manager said that’s not a problem.”

Graduating with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and a minor in mathematics, he had his mind set on working for SONIC. Working his way up, he became a manager and then a director overseeing several stores and their respective supervisors. Ahmad began helping SONIC’s Dennis Murphy grow the franchise system. “I started working with him when he had five locations,” Ahmad said, “When he sold it, we had 48 locations.”

“Going into a market that nobody has tapped into as an investor means you’re going to be investing in a recognizable business,” he says. “They will quickly see that nobody can do what SONIC does. Everybody tries to imitate what SONIC does, but they can’t.

“We have so many undeveloped markets but people in them already love SONIC because of our effective national marketing,” Ahmad adds. “It doesn’t matter where people live in the country; they’re exposed to a SONIC ad.

“The people running the operation are family-oriented people who care and believe,” he continues. “They wake up in the morning and ask ‘What can I do to make SONIC’s brand better than it was yesterday?’ That’s what really drives SONIC towards a better future moving forward.”

Become a SONIC Franchise Owner

To learn more about becoming a SONIC Franchise Owner, request a copy of our free franchise report or visit our research pages.

Find your life’s passion and career with SONIC

SONIC, America’s Drive-In is the nation’s largest drive-in restaurant chain serving approximately 3 million customers every day. Nearly 94 percent of SONIC’s 3,500 drive-in locations are owned and operated by local business men and women. For 64 years, SONIC has delighted guests with signature menu items, 1.3 million drink combinations and friendly service by iconic Carhops. Since the 2009 launch of SONIC’s Limeades for Learning philanthropic campaign in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, SONIC has donated $8.5 million to public school teachers nationwide to fund essential learning materials and innovative teaching resources to inspire creativity and learning in their students. To learn more about Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ/NM: SONC), please visitsonicdrivein.com and please visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. To learn about SONIC’s Limeades for Learning initiative, please visit LimeadesforLearning.com.

SONIC’s New App Revolutionizes Drive-In Experience

The new SONIC app is quickly growing in popularity

SONIC® is the forward-thinking QSR franchise leveraging new technology to improve the customer experience. The latest advancement is an easy-to-use app.

Since launching on the App Store and Google Play, the app is quickly growing in popularity while empowering the customer in a new way.

Whether brand new to SONIC or a longtime and loyal customer, the app is making the drive-in experience more convenient than ever before. It’s menu perfectly mirrors the look and feel of SONIC’s iconic drive-thru menu screens in a fun and interactive way. The app also has key features which are personalizing the SONIC experience for customers who are:

● Finding the closest SONIC Drive-In locations and hours in their area.
● Browsing the menu and checking out nutritional information.
● Conveniently paying for orders through the app.
● Sending and receiving gift cards in exciting new designs to friends and family.
● Loading and reloading their MySONIC cards.
● Receiving monthly rewards.
● Viewing new promotions and specials on the app’s menu screen.

“In cooperation with our franchise owners, we’ve made significant technology investments to connect with our customers in a more personalized, individualized way,” says Doug Cook, Chief Enterprise Architect. “Our new app helps make SONIC far more competitive as a brand. Having built the app and supporting digital platform from scratch, we are well positioned to rapidly create new business capabilities and interactions with our customers. This app places us amongst the most innovative brands in the QSR segment, and it will increase our ability to win market share in the communities we serve.”

SONIC, an iconic brand with a rich heritage encompassing more than 60 years, believes in excellent customer service and developing meaningful relationships with our customers. The new app is building upon those relationships by enhancing SONIC’s ability to connect directly to customers.

In the near future, the app will track critical customer data, such as details about order preferences and the dollars spent. This useful information is incredibly advantageous for a growing brand to have, as SONIC’s strong marketing initiative can be tailored much more closely to the individual consumer.

“My view is we are going to provide a different experience for the customer versus our competition trying to use the same tool,” says Cliff Hudson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of SONIC Corp. in a recent interview with Nation’s Restaurant News. “We will provide a different experience, more personalized experience and we will get more information about them to able to be market to them in a way our QSR competition will have a difficult time matching.”

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

For in-depth details about the SONIC Drive-In franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report. You can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

SONIC Presents Awards to Top Franchisees at 2017 National Convention

Franchisees and Operators recognized for brand leadership

During the 2017 SONIC National Convention in Denver, Colorado in October, franchisees and operators of SONIC received 10 awards.

Annually, SONIC recognizes exemplary individuals and franchise groups to honor those who have a proven track record of strong leadership skills and leading the brand.

Award Recipients of the Convention

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. It is 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 award to Gary Kinslow, a second generation SONIC franchisee and leader of Kinslow SONIC Group. Based in Prague, Oklahoma. He owns and operates 40 SONIC Drive-Ins in Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi. Kinslow started his career at age 14 at SONIC as a cook for his father and now 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, Sonic Corp. CEO. “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, which 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 turnaround any aspect of business.

Great People Award: Buddy McClain

SONIC presented Buddy McClain, franchisee and leader of McClain, Vaughn and Partners franchise group, with the SONIC Great People Award. 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 in 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 supervising fewer than five drive-ins with a 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, working his way up to operating partner at three drive-ins located in Hartsville, S.C., Fayetteville, N.C., and Elizabeth City, N.C. 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 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 constantly look for ways to improve the business. Simonds is the director of operations for 11 drive-ins in the Rubyhill Group across Denver, Colorado. In 2000, she started her career at SONIC as a cook and 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, N.Y. Cinos, LLC owns and operates three SONIC Drive-Ins in the state of 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 we remodeled, rebuilt and relocated existing drive-ins. Based in Oklahoma City, Okla., and founded in 1974, MHR is one of SONIC’s largest franchise groups and credits its longtime success to their partners and operators, some of whom have been with the group for more than 30 years.

About SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®

SONIC, America’s Drive-In is the nation’s largest drive-in restaurant chain serving approximately 3 million customers every day. Nearly 94 percent of SONIC’s 3,500 drive-in locations are owned and operated by local business men and women. For 64 years, SONIC has delighted guests with signature menu items, 1.3 million drink combinations and friendly service by iconic Carhops. Since the 2009 launch of SONIC’s Limeades for Learning philanthropic campaign in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, SONIC has donated $8.5 million to public school teachers nationwide to fund essential learning materials and innovative teaching resources to inspire creativity and learning in today’s youth. To learn more about Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ/NM: SONC) and Sonic franchising, please visit sonicdrivein.com and sonicfranchises.com and please visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.