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.

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.

SONIC’s Franchise Restaurant Models Work in Convenience Stores and Non-Traditional Locations

Wherever people are popping by for convenience or quickness, America’s Drive-In fits right in

SONIC® has always put quality, delicious food, and top-notch customer service above everything else. As one of America’s premier QSR’s, we’re proud to be people’s go-to stop for celebrating everyday occasions. From our delicious, endlessly customizable drink menu to our fresh, made-to-order food, SONIC has something for everyone.

As we continue our nationwide expansion, we’re always looking for additional ways to bring our one-of-a-kind dining experience to new customers. One model that has us especially excited is the opening of SONICs in convenience stores and other non-traditional locations. These new sites allow us to create powerful synergies with other brands while at the same time making our food more accessible than ever.

“This push to open restaurants in convenience stores and other non-traditional locations represents an exciting new direction for America’s Drive-In,” says Lori Osley, Senior Director of Franchise Sales/Development Marketing. “Our brand has always been about creativity and adaptability, and this new restaurant model fits perfectly in that tradition. Innovations like this are yet another example of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s propelling our current national expansion.”

While the traditional drive-in continues to be at the heart of SONIC’s restaurant model, non-traditional models also figure strongly in our growth. They present new and profitable opportunities to serve markets and locations where traditional drive-in locations aren’t possible. Furthermore, combining SONIC franchises with existing and new convenience stores allows franchisees to leverage the built-in markets of other national brands.

The time is ripe to invest in a SONIC franchise, with awareness of our brand and demand for our services higher than ever. With new franchise models possible, there have never been more ways to become a franchisee.

America’s Drive-In is an adaptable, growing brand with a rich history

Here at SONIC, we’re proud of our roots. Founder Troy Smith started his humble Oklahoma hamburger stand with the goal of unmatched customer service backed by innovation. His hard work and business acumen laid the groundwork for SONIC to become the QSR powerhouse it is today.

While we’ll never lose sight of where we began, we also continue to look forward. The SONIC of today is a vibrant, innovative brand for the 21st century. We continue to invest in new technology to provide a superb, customized experience for everyone who visits our restaurants. We’re also leveraging social media to connect with our fans in more ways than ever.

As we grow our brand across the nation, we’re pushing the boundaries of what a QSR can be. Convenience store locations represent a prime example of this innovation. These stores have a built-in customer base that is already primed to buy when they walk in the door. The addition of a SONIC restaurant is a logical extension of the convenience store concept by providing a way for visitors to enjoy tasty hot food and refreshing cold drinks while they’re on the go.

America’s Drive-In has had great success partnering with existing convenience store brands to bring the SONIC experience to customers. For instance, recent co-branded locations in Oklahoma City have proven to be a smart business move for both brands. This is just one of the many synergies possible, and we’re always working with franchisees who can bring such innovation to SONIC’s strong tradition.

More ways than ever to invest in a SONIC franchise

SONIC offers its franchisees a variety of models for opening a restaurant. In addition to our traditional drive-in, we also offer models with indoor dining, counter service models perfect for convenience stores and food courts, and drive-ins especially designed for travel plazas. We can also work with franchisees to convert existing restaurants into SONIC locations. Our team of real estate and market research professionals works closely with our franchisees to choose the best location and model for their particular markets.

Convenience store locations represent an exciting new type of restaurant that meshes perfectly with SONIC’s business model. For example, the wide range of open hours at convenience stores fits well with our five-daypart menu strategy, which offers customers options for breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening. This strategy could translate into a higher ROI for investors, keeping business steady during those parts of the day when other QSRs typically experience slumps.

sonic franchise

The model of the drive-in window also fits particularly well with convenience stores. People who go to convenience stores are busy but don’t want to compromise on quality. Attaching a drive-in allows them to get a high-quality meal, drink, or snack without having to leave the convenience and comfort of their vehicles. With SONIC’s reputation for superb food and stellar service, adding a drive-in location gives convenience store customers a QSR option they can trust.

Finally, partnering with a convenience store allows franchisees to operate in locations and markets where a traditional drive-in location might not be feasible. Whether it’s a denser urban area without the land necessary for drive-in stalls or a travel plaza that sees lots of drive-thru traffic, the convenience store model is a strong, sensible investment in many markets. Thanks to national advertising efforts like the Two Guys campaign, people in these areas know and want SONIC. All they need is a savvy, entrepreneurial investor willing to bring America’s Drive-In to 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 can also learn more by visiting our research pages.

New Detroit SONIC Drive-In Restaurant Includes Indoor Dining

America’s Drive-In is a versatile franchise restaurant concept that fits any community

SONIC® Drive-In has always been a leading innovator in the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry. From founder Troy Smith’s forward-thinking decision to install speakers in SONIC’s first Oklahoma location and our recent nationwide upgrades to our point-of-personalized service (POPS) system, SONIC is always finding new ways to provide an exceptional, personalized customer experience.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Sonic’s new franchisee in Detroit has opened Detroit’s first Sonic Drive-In restaurant. It proudly features indoor seating, which is an innovative direction that demonstrates SONIC’s ability to adapt to the different markets that we will serve as we expand our network of franchises into new, profitable territories across America.

Sonic Franchises

“We’re proud to continue expanding our one-of-a-kind QSR franchise business model to the Midwest,” says Lori Osley, Senior Director of Franchise Sales/Development Marketing. “This new location in Detroit continues our long tradition of delivering high-quality, freshly-made food from morning to night. The franchise owner’s decision to offer indoor seating shows how SONIC always does the utmost to ensure a top-notch experience that keeps customers coming back day after day.”

SONIC is in the middle of a major nationwide expansion, with the goal of opening 1,000 new SONIC Drive-In restaurants by the end of 2024. We’re building upon our rich history and iconic brand to expand our network well beyond 3,500 currently operating dining establishments. We already serve over three million customers each day, and we have a robust marketing infrastructure that creates pent-up demand and strong customer turnout as we expand into new territories. Now is a better time than ever to be a part of this expansive growth.

Although the core of our expansion will be our traditional drive-in model, we also offer our franchisees other models such as added indoor dining to fit the specific needs of their markets. Read on to find out how one franchisee in Detroit is taking advantage of this model to provide a high-quality dining experience that fits his customers’ lifestyles and local climate.

SONIC adapts to the needs of the communities it serves

As America’s Drive-In moves into the Midwest, we’re helping our new franchisees adapt their restaurants to the unique needs of local markets. In the case of places like Detroit, colder winters make indoor dining a natural choice for providing an optimal seasonal customer experience. At the same time, these franchises can add patio seating, a drive-thru and drive-thru stalls to ensure the utmost customer experience year-round.

sonic franchise infographic

We offer a range of different SONIC franchise models to fit the specific needs of the markets we serve. Whether it’s a counter-service model in a convenience store , indoor dining in Detroit or one of our time-honored traditional drive-ins, SONIC is positioned to serve communities across the nation. We work closely with our franchisees to help them choose and implement the model that’s best for the markets they serve. We conduct detailed market research and analysis to help our franchisees select models that best serve their customers to better position our franchisees for experiencing profitable investments.

Regardless of the model, our greatest goal is to give customers a memorable, quality dining experience for every occasion year round. We’re proud to be the place people choose to celebrate everyday occasions, and we will continue that tradition as we expand and innovate. Thanks to our wildly successful Two Guys advertising campaign, the demand for and awareness of our brand has never been higher[BD2] . The future for expansion is bright.

More ways than ever for customers to enjoy the food they love

SONIC customers can’t get enough of our food. With a menu that maximizes all five dayparts (breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and evening), we’re able to offer customers the food they want when they want it. For instance, we were serving breakfast all day long before it was trendy, and our Happy Hour promotion drives 23% of business. Our broad and flexible menu can translate into a higher ROI for our franchisees[LA3] , keeping business constant during times of day when other QSRs normally see less activity.

sonic franchise

Our food offerings appeal especially to millennials, who love the range of choice and customization present in our menu. Whether it’s a coney for breakfast, a breakfast burrito for dinner or one of our hundreds of thousands of drink combinations as a “just-because” treat, the versatility of our menu fits perfectly into the busy lives of millennial professionals. According to research from Morgan Stanley, 53% of millennials dine out once a week. With more than 80 million millennials in the United States,[LA4] this represents an exciting business opportunity for SONIC franchisees.

At the same time, SONIC remains a favorite option for a broad variety of demographics, from baby boomers who want a dose of nostalgia to parents who want to grab a quick bite after their children’s sports practice. We are the go-to QSR for high-quality, made-to-order food and superb service at the times of day that are right for our customers.

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.