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’s Franchise POS System Is Boosting Profits

The iconic drive-in franchise featured in national franchise publication for the strong results of new POS system

 

SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®, is committed to helping franchisees thrive and prosper by investing in state-of-the-art technology and the training that comes with it. To increase profits and help improve daily operations, SONIC is leading the QSR industry by providing a POS system, as well as an entire team of experts, to help franchisees in their businesses.

In a new article, “POS-itive Results! How SONIC’s POS System Boosts Profits,” published in Franchise, SONIC’s Senior Manager of System Margin Improvement Jerry Fogel writes about how SONIC combines technology and training to generate big results for franchisees.

“As a franchisor, we work to improve the SONIC experience for guests, as well as for franchisees, who own and operate more than 94% of our drive-ins,” Fogel writes. “Enabling our franchisees to run profitable businesses is mutually beneficial.”

Fogel leads SONIC’s Margin Improvement Management team (MIM), which provides intensive training to help franchisees learn how to use the POS system to its full potential. Once franchisees get accustomed to using the software properly, they quickly experience how the POS system helps to keep costs low, drive savings and increase bottom-line revenues.

“The success has been impressive,” Fogel writes. “Franchisees who have been through the MIM process have experienced significant decreases in food costs, paper costs and order voids, leading to higher profits. These higher profits are resulting in more dedicated (and happier) general managers, which in turn creates a better workplace for hourly crew members and the overall franchise organization.”

In addition to the increased profitability and a happier workplace environment, the MIM training allows franchisees to “see how small actions (burning a burger patty, wasting napkins, making guest order errors, etc.) can affect the bottom line” and also creates “more knowledgeable and business-minded general managers who are more passionate about their jobs.”

“The moral of the story is simple,” Fogel adds. “Provide the right tools for your business and ensure that you are using every capability of that tool to its fullest potential to improve performance, profits and passion in the workplace.”

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 Drive-In Poised for Growth in 2019

The iconic drive-in franchise announces many positive changes as it rapidly grows throughout the nation

As SONIC heads into 2019 development, here are a few key highlights from 2018 that helped SONIC achieve the #3 ranking on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 List.

SONIC Drive-In® officially joins Inspire Brands®

SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®, heads into the New Year as the newest member of Inspire Brands®, one of the largest restaurant companies in the nation.

SONIC names Claudia San Pedro as president

As recently announced, Claudia San Pedro will lead the SONIC brand as President. Cliff Hudson, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SONIC, is expected to serve as a Senior Advisor to SONIC until March 2019 to help ensure a smooth transition.

“This is an important and exciting milestone for SONIC,” said San Pedro. “Inspire’s commitment to strategic investments and culture of collaboration will significantly benefit our guests, team members, and franchisees. As part of the Inspire family of brands, SONIC is positioned for growth and to continue our 65-year track record of success.”

SONIC is growing from coast to coast

SONIC is rapidly growing across the nation, with coast to coast openings in 2018 including those in Huntington Beach, CA, Key West, FL, Renton, WA, and Flushing, NY.

Strong growth is poised to continue in 2019, as SONIC has awarded multi-unit development deals in Alaska, Iowa and Texas, with additional partnerships to be announced later this year.

SONIC is focused on opening nontraditional locations
in new markets

SONIC recently introduced new, flexible restaurant models featuring indoor dining, multi-lane drive-thrus, and nontraditional design options suitable for unique real estate opportunities such as travel plazas, college campuses, and airports to capitalize on the demand for growth throughout the nation.

Sonic continues with breakthrough innovation

SONIC remains focused on preserving our unique culture of innovation, inclusion and diversity with a deep commitment to delivering authentic and delicious experiences to guests. In 2018, SONIC launched a mobile order-ahead platform, making it even easier for customers to customize their menu favorites. This past year also marked the year of the Sonic Signature Slinger, a beef and mushroom burger starting at just 340 calories and the summer hit, Sonic’s Pickle Juice Slush. Continuous product innovation keeps our loyal customers coming back for more and helps drive new consumer transactions.

Want to learn more about SONIC franchise opportunities?

For more information on multi-unit development opportunities near you, visit our website.

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.

Teachers Across America Share
in $1 Million Donation from
SONIC Drive-In

Iconic franchise exemplifies what it means to be successful by giving back to teachers across the country

Investing in a SONIC® franchise is far more than an opportunity to open an iconic business in your community, it is the opportunity to join a brand that cares as much about your community as you do.

Teachers are the heart of every community, and SONIC’s philanthropic initiative, Limeades for Learning®, is devoted to helping public school teachers thrive. Recently, the program awarded a $1 million donation to public school teachers, giving nearly a thousand communities another reason to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

This year, SONIC customers participated in a month-long event called Fall Voting, where they picked their favorites from thousands of teacher projects to select the ones the initiative should fund. Limeades for Learning selected 1,900 teacher projects — supporting 945 classrooms across the country — with the winning teachers receiving additional resources, learning materials and creative supplies to help their students thrive.

“With Limeades for Learning, you don’t have to be a parent or friend of a teacher to help teachers fill their classrooms with materials that inspire the students’ creativity and learning,” says Christi Woodworth, Vice President of Public Relations for Sonic, in a statement to QSR magazine. “By searching teachers’ projects at LimeadesForLearning.com, we can all be inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and creative problem-solving teachers use every day to make sure their students learn.

“As we celebrate Limeades for Learning’s 10th anniversary, we are proud to have donated more than $11 million in books, instruments, science equipment, technology and more to classrooms nationwide through our partnership with DonorsChoose.org. We continue to support public school teachers financially and cheer them on every day as they bring learning to life for their students.”

Since 2009, SONIC has supported and celebrated public school teachers through Limeades for Learning in partnership with DonorsChoose.org to provide teachers with essential materials and supplies needed for their classrooms. To date, SONIC has supported more than 26,000 classroom projects benefiting more than 795,000 students.

Click here to learn more about how SONIC’s values have shaped the brand’s consistent success for more than 60 years.

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.

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.

QSR Magazine Calls SONIC a “Game Changer”

Iconic American drive-in franchise praised for its forward thinking customer experience strategy

SONIC, America’s drive-in franchise, is blazing new trails with a forward-thinking approach to customer service. By blending innovations in technology, savvy consumer marketing and consistent additions to what already is one of the most diverse menus in the QSR segment, SONIC also is winning high praise from the media.

sonic franchise

In a recent article published by QSR magazine titled, “Sonic’s Digital Strategy Could be a Game-Changer,” the publication lavishes praise on the iconic drive-in franchise for ushering in a new era for the QSR food industry.

“Around Sonic Drive-In headquarters, it’s referred to as ICE, or Integrated Customer Engagement,” the publication reports. “And it might just be the most dynamic strategy in the 3,600-unit brand’s history to date.”

One of the key points in the ICE strategy is the recent rollout of SONIC’s new Mobile Order Ahead app, which allows customers to customize their orders, pay-in-advance, choose their pickup location, while significantly reducing the wait-time for their food to be ready to mere minutes:

Sonic views this platform as a game-changer since it allows customers to decide when and where to order in a unique way. Guests use the app to customize, pay, and then select which Drive-In to go and pick up the food, as well as the time. Once guests check into the stalls, Sonic carhops bring the food out.

Another of the key facets to the ICE strategy is in digital media, which QSR reports accounts for 20% of SONIC’s overall marketing spend. In the article, SONIC CEO Cliff Hudson says that the overall goal behind SONIC’s focus on digital media is “probably our biggest priority over the coming months and years with an internal goal to grow our customer database fivefold over the next five years.”

“Our hope and expectation is that our unmatched potential for offering personalization to [quick-service] segment can increase our guest loyalty, drive incremental visits in the near term and increase average check over the long term,” Hudson said in the article.

From the development perspective, SONIC’s increasing brand equity is translating into new restaurants, with QSR reporting that SONIC has more than 500 commitments in the pipeline
for growth.

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.

 

SONIC Franchise’s Pickle Slush a Summer Hit

SONIC franchise won big on delicious take on a playful
and popular food trend

SONIC, America’s Drive-In franchise, won national media attention for the roll-out of one of the most playful menu items in recent memory: The Pickle Slush.

Americans are wild about pickles, and in recent years, pickles have become trendy for their ability to enhance almost any flavor combination. By elevating them above add-on status, SONIC made pickles the star of their very own slushie drink.

SONIC Customer at Drive-In

“Quite simply, pickle juice is fun,” says Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development for SONIC. “Nothing says summer like a SONIC slush, and only SONIC could bring a completely on-trend beverage flavor into 3,500 restaurants.”

The Pickle Slush was a bona fide hit with the national media, as dozens of publications from USA TODAY, Time, People, Mashable and more rushed to cover the iconic franchise’s brand new frozen treat. In a recent profile of the Pickle Slush, Food & Wine explained what makes SONIC’s bold summer treat so unique:

“And the drink is exactly what it sounds like: a sweet slush flavored with pickle juice,” Food & Wine reports. “As could be expected, the beverage is bright green — in a way no brine of pickles ever has been — but this is SONIC, so everything should be a little fluorescent and playful.

“We tasted the drink at Sonic’s headquarters in Oklahoma City, and it’s surprisingly delicious (and makes a good accompaniment to burgers and/or tots and/or corn dogs),” the publication continued. “Sweet and tangy, the bright brine compensates for the over-savoriness you might have been worried about. You won’t understand why, but you’ll keep going back for more sips, likely until it’s all gone.”

Menu innovation drives sales and excites customers

SONIC Drive-In

While the Pickle Slush inspired think pieces and rave reviews by news outlets and fans on social media, this playful treat is part of SONIC’s consistent strategy to deliver exciting menu items that drive sales to franchisees and prod the brand’s millions of loyal customers into trying something new.

Recently, SONIC has rolled out a delicious new mushroom-infused burger that is more environmentally conscious without sacrificing the taste that SONIC is known for. SONIC also launched Crispy Tenders, a delicious update on chicken tenders. This continued commitment to updating what already is one of the QSR industry’s most innovative menus is a winning way to deepen the brand’s connection to its fans — and they return the favor. When SONIC rolls out a product, fans rush to YouTube and Facebook to post videos, many of which are viewed thousands of times.

Alongside these delicious menu additions, SONIC is making its customer experience more convenient than ever. In late spring, SONIC launched its revolutionary mobile app, which allows SONIC fans to order from their local franchise restaurant with their phones. SONIC fans can customize their order to their liking, pay for their order and have their food in hand mere minutes after pulling up to the restaurant.

“At the heart of who we are is innovation,” says Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Lori Abou Habib. “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 want to make sure we are meeting our consumers’ needs and surprising them.”

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.

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.