Virginia SONIC Franchisees Celebrate Planned Opening in Manassas

Two new SONIC franchise owners discuss their upcoming restaurant openings

SONIC, America’s Drive-In®, is entering new markets across the country at a rapid clip. New openings also mean that SONIC is welcoming more entrepreneurs to our continually growing franchise family.

Two of our newest franchisees, Jerome Johnson and Steven Covey, are generating a lot of buzz around their first SONIC franchise restaurant, which is scheduled to open in Manassas, Va., later this summer.

The Prince William Times, a local newspaper in Manassas, recently interviewed Johnson and Covey and the two entrepreneurs open up about the local excitement surrounding the new opening, and much, much more.

“We know how happy people are to have a SONIC in our community, and we’re really looking forward to bringing the brand’s delicious menu items to the area,” Johnson says in the article.

Due to the colder weather that hits Manassas in the winter, Johnson and Covey took advantage of SONIC’s new indoor dining model, which has SONIC’s traditional drive-in stalls and drive-thru, but also gives guests a chance to get out of the cold and enjoy their meals inside.

When Johnson and Covey needed a special permit for their drive-thru window, they received special assistance from a source that speaks to how big the demand for SONIC in Manassas truly is:

Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, introduced the motion, saying his teenage daughter had made a special plea for his approval before the meeting.

“She said, ‘Dad, I’ve never asked you for anything before, but even if you have to raise taxes, please approve this,’” Candland joked.

As for now, Johnson and Covey are focusing on their grand opening, which they hint will happen later this year.

“There might be fireworks going on,” when the drive-in makes its debut, the article states. When asked if that was a reference to the Fourth of July holiday, Covey laughed and said, ‘Maybe!’”

We encourage you to read the entire article by clicking here.

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

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

SONIC Drive-In Franchise Review: Meet Chris Penjuani

Why a SONIC franchise owner in a small town in Texas is so happy about his decision to invest in America’s Drive-In®  franchise

Chris PenjuaniWhen Chris Penjuani answers the phone, you immediately understand why his new SONIC location in Robstown, Texas, has drawn a large following of regular guests after only six months of operations. Chris is one happy entrepreneur, and his energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

“We have so many people who come to us for breakfast in the morning, and visit again on the way home from work,” he says. “I love to see that. I love learning their names and what they like to eat. I love being able to suggest new things for them to try, and have them try it and love it. This business is all about the customer, and being able to provide our guests with a great experience every day makes me extremely proud.”

Robstown is a small suburb of Corpus Christi, near the Gulf of Mexico, with a population close to 12,000. SONIC thrives in small-town markets like Robstown because our brand has the unique ability to become a part of the communities we serve. This is the very reason Penjuani knew that SONIC would be a great fit in Robstown, and when he reached out to explore franchise ownership with SONIC, he even had a location already scouted.

“On my drive to work every morning, I kept passing this site right across the street from the high school and very close to the major highway. I kept thinking, ‘This is the perfect location for a SONIC,’” Penjuani says. “It’s proven to be an incredible location. Not only do the high-school students make this their hangout after school, we also have incredible traffic coming in at lunch, dinner and evenings because we’re so easy to get to and this community just really loves our food. We’ve been growing since the day we opened.”

SONIC’s ability to offer a full, five-daypart menu that serves an innovative mix of craveable, delicious food items all day long is what attracted Penjuani to the brand as a customer. As a franchise owner, he enjoys being able to share his love for SONIC’s food with his customers.

“I’ve been eating at SONIC for years,” Penjuani says. “In my opinion, and I might be biased, SONIC has the best food in the QSR segment by far. The corporate team does a fantastic job at coming up with innovative products that keep guests excited to come back. It’s very rewarding for me to recommend a new menu item to our guests and have them return and order it again.”

While Penjuani might be one of the newest members of the SONIC franchise family, he joined our brand with significant business experience. In fact, Penjuani still has a day job as co-owner and operator of several gas stations in his hometown — and like any successful entrepreneur he already is thinking about growing his SONIC business beyond his one location.

“I rush to my SONIC location every day after leaving one of my gas stations,” Penjuani says. “I’m just very excited to be there; I love being there. I have been lucky to have such a great team around me from the outset, people I really trust. The support from SONIC corporate has been outstanding, and to be honest, this is way easier and a lot more enjoyable than operating a gas station. Of course I’m hoping to grow and expand into the future.”

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

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

SONIC Drive-In Franchise Owner Review: Meet Mohammad Alaqrabawy

How an entrepreneur made the American Dream come true with the iconic drive-in franchise

Mohammad Alaqrabawy

Mohammad Alaqrabawy is an American success story. When he was a teenager with very little mastery over the English language, Alaqrabawy immigrated to the United States from Jordan and got his first job as a crew member  in a SONIC® Drive-In. Twenty-eight years later, Alaqrabawy owns 15 drive-ins in the Dallas metropolitan area, and his passion for SONIC’s food, his many employees and his community is stronger than ever.

“I came to the United States when I was 18 years old,” he says. “SONIC was my first job. I started in the kitchen, with very little English, and from day one, I just fell in love with the concept. I built my way up to be involved in the management team, then worked as a supervisor, then became a partner, and then, thank God, to become a SONIC franchisee.”

Alaqrabawy has spent his entire adult life in SONIC, and as a franchise owner, he is committed to providing opportunities for his employees, helping them to work their way up through the brand.

“To me, SONIC is not like a job,” he says. “I just enjoy the relationships and the success stories that I see. When I look at some of my employees, who started as a crew members, and work their way up through the company, that is truly amazing. This is a culture where everybody helps everybody else — and that is what I love about this brand. My example helps me a lot, because I can truly say, ‘the sky’s the limit.’ You can work your way up, like I have, from crew member all the way to franchise owner.”

While Alaqrabawy owns 15 restaurants, including a newly-opened nontraditional SONIC located inside a gas station convenience store in Dallas, he credits SONIC’s executive team for helping to make the process of opening new restaurants easy for him to achieve.

“SONIC makes opening a new restaurant so easy for us,” Alaqrabawy says. “They start offering help from day one. When I started to grow with SONIC, it was a no-brainer because we get all of the support that we need.”

One of the biggest strengths in franchising with SONIC is the remarkable level of brand awareness that the brand has throughout the nation. When Alaqrabawy is ready to open a new restaurant, he knows that his community will be excited long before he opens his doors.

“The brand awareness is amazing,” Alaqrabawy says. “With all of the national media, the television commercials, our customers already know our menu before we open a new restaurant. They’re excited when they learn that we’re going to open a new restaurant. All we have to do is open a new location, and our customers will be there.”

In the documentary clip below, watch Alaqrabawy open up about his life as a SONIC franchisee, and learn more about how this one-time SONIC crew member became an exemplar of the American Dream:

Link to video 

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

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

SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®, is part of the Inspire Brands® family of restaurants. Inspire is a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes more than 8,300 Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and SONIC locations worldwide.

SONIC Franchise Review: Meet Blake Haines

Iconic drive-in franchise unveils short documentary about a young franchise owner who is thriving in the family business

SONIC® franchisees often say that joining SONIC®, America’s Drive-In® feels like becoming part of a very large family. For Blake Haines, co-owner of SONIC Drive-Ins located in Tennessee, investing in a SONIC Drive-In franchise is becoming a part of the family — his family.

Haines’ father-in-law, David Watson, is one of the largest SONIC franchisees in the system with more than 60 locations in Tennessee. After graduating from college, Haines worked his way up from carhop to general manager at the very first drive-in Watson purchased in his hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, in 1987. Haines’ impressive work ethic and drive to succeed prompted Watson to make Haines a partner in 29 restaurants — including a new, state-of-the-art location in the beautiful Franklin neighborhood of Berry Farms.

Opened in summer 2018, the Berry Farms location fits in perfectly with the architecture of its pedestrian-friendly community. The restaurant is extremely versatile, with garage doors that open to the breeze in the summer and close during the chilly fall and winter seasons, offering guests a great place to unwind and satisfy their cravings no matter the time of year or the fickle weather that Tennesseans are used to experiencing.

“It’s been incredibly busy,” Haines says. “SONIC has such great recognition, and that’s one of the things that you want as a franchisee — that brand recognition. Also, the building layouts, the carhops, the huge menu and the incredible drinks — everything about the brand is very appealing. SONIC provides support in many ways to help you run your restaurant the way you need to. I get asked all the time if I ever get sick of eating SONIC food, and the truth is no. No, I don’t.”

In the documentary clip below, watch Haines open up about his life as a SONIC franchisee, and be sure to catch his co-star, his brand new restaurant, in every scene:

Learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities

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

SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®, is part of the Inspire Brands® family of restaurants. Inspire is a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes more than 8,300 Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and SONIC locations worldwide.

What Makes SONIC a Standout Franchise Opportunity?

SONIC franchise CEO explains that and more in a Q&A

Cliff Hudson has served as CEO of SONIC for 23 years. In that time, SONIC has evolved from a hyper-regional brand to one of the most dominant brands in the QSR industry. Under Hudson’s leadership, SONIC pioneered a winning five-daypart menu strategy and won millions of loyal fans by offering wildly innovative products and appealing to them with humor in the enormously popular “Two Guys”, and the new “Two Girls” marketing campaigns. SONIC has grown to more than 3,500 locations across the country, and the brand is only getting started.

Cliff Hudson

In this wide-ranging Q&A, Hudson maps out why SONIC’s future is brighter than ever before and how SONIC collaborates with franchisees. He unpacks future growth plans, new products and the revolutionary new mobile app that is poised to change the way customers interact with SONIC forever.

How is SONIC enhancing the customer experience today?

Hudson: One of the big things that will enhance our customer experience is our growing integration of technology. We’ve had our first market test of what we call Integrated Customer Engagement. It includes a customer’s ability to order ahead using an app, pay ahead and pull into a stall. Because the food will have been prepared before the customer gets there, it is delivered to the customer’s car in less two minutes — now the customer can be first in line every time. The customer has the ability to completely personalize and customize their order on the app, so we’re enhancing the customer experience with 21st-century tools. We’re taking the strength of what we’ve had historically, and we’re stepping it up.

Why does SONIC stand out as a franchise opportunity?

Hudson: We are a national brand with a super-regional footprint. There’s still territory for which a new franchisee can purchase development rights. That territory will have had years of national marketing, so when a franchisee opens his first store, he already will have a high degree of brand awareness. There are many markets where that is true, and that is a real advantage for a new franchisee. In addition, we have something that is rare in the franchise industry, which is an ascending royalty rate. This means that we share some of the risk with the franchisees — if their sales are lower when they open, their royalty rate will be lower as well. As their sales climb, their royalty rate will climb. They get the benefit of a national brand, even going into new markets, and the benefit of us running the risk with them in new markets.

What does SONIC look like in the next five years?

Hudson: We are approaching 4,000 units and will be on a new plateau of national brands in the next 5 to 7 years. It makes us a better risk for a new franchisee opening in a new market. There are about five states where we do not have a presence, although in the near term, we will open our first store in Hawaii. Then we will focus on other states where we have no presence. In the next five years, we will continue to focus on domestic expansion and increase our brand awareness and customer loyalty.

One of the unique things about SONIC is the culture of collaboration between the franchisor and the franchisee network. How do you continue to deliver on this goal?

Hudson: One of the things that we’ve worked on really hard is to promote a culture of collaboration. We’ve worked hard to engage our franchisees in planning regarding technology, new products and marketing programs. The franchisees are involved in the development and testing of those long in advance. As a franchisor, we go a great distance in achieving alignment with our operators because they’re so involved in the process. We’ve all achieved a great deal of success together — and success begets further success. Even in times when things are more challenging, we’ve done a good job of keeping our operators on board by keeping them involved in the process.

There is the opportunity to have fun! Our brand lends itself — with products and customer experience — to having fun. We spend a lot more time at work than we do in any other aspect of our lives, so it’s important to enjoy the people you work with and the time you share together.

How does SONIC’s five-day part strategy help franchisees generate sales throughout the day?

Hudson: About 20 years ago, we started developing beyond the traditional lunch and dinner business — which all of our competition still relies on — when we introduced our Frozen  Fountain Favorites in 1996. This really blew out the afternoon and evening business. Four or five years later, we implemented breakfast, and that rounded out the five dayparts — Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon, Dinner and Evening, or B.L.A.D.E., as we say. This has helped our franchisees leverage labor throughout the day. Rather than having a small lunch staff and a big dinner staff, our operators get to leverage their staffs all day.

If you look at most of the sandwich concepts, 75% to 80% of their business comes from lunch and dinner, whereas about half of our business comes at lunch and dinner, and half comes from breakfast, afternoon and evening. SONIC offers a very differentiated business strategy that allows you to leverage fixed assets and labor in a way the competition does not.

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 also can learn more by visiting our research pages.

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.

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.