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SONIC Drive-In Celebrates Development Milestone in Alaska

America’s Drive-In franchise announces multi-unit development deal in Alaska

SONIC Drive-In

SONIC, America’s Drive-In® franchise, is heading to Alaska. The iconic franchise has announced a multi-unit development deal that will see the brand putting five locations in the state in the coming years.

While SONIC has grown to more than 3,600 locations across 46 states, this is the first time SONIC has expanded out of what Alaskan residents refer to as, “The Lower 48.” This is a tremendous achievement for SONIC, as the brand recently launched an indoor dining model to serve colder markets, allowing SONIC to expand into the Midwest, Northeast and now Alaska.

The new locations will be owned by Larry Clark and Cameron Johnson, who are excited to capitalize on unmet demand for SONIC in the Alaskan market. For Clark, who grew up in the South and now lives in Alaska, owning a SONIC is something of a homecoming.

“I can’t wait to introduce my community to this brand I know and love,” he says. “I once joked with my wife that I would buy her a SONIC Drive-In after she asked for a Cherry Limeade, and later this year this will flourish into reality.”

SONIC is excited about its Alaskan expansion

Alaska is commonly referred to as The Last Frontier, and no one gets the meaning of this more than a franchise system ready to expand in the state. Franchise Times recently published an article titled “Supply Chain, Frozen Ground Challenges for First Sonic in Alaska,” which documents the new franchise owners’ process of opening their first SONIC in an icy climate.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is meetings with cold storage vendors locally so we can order adequate amounts of food so we can have it in stock,” Clark says in the article. “I’ve noticed in grand openings here, within one hour, they were out of every product they have except for soft drinks. Which causes them to go buy stuff locally.”

Making sure the new SONIC has the right amount of inventory is important — as the population in Alaska does not get a chance to frequent restaurants in the way that the majority of Americans do — simply because many brands have yet to enter the market. When Clark put his SONIC sign at his first location in Wasilla, the article reports that the “community went crazy.”

“Put the monument sign at 2 p.m. and it went viral in 20 minutes,” said Clark. “By 2:20, it was shared more than 3,000 times.”

He said that happens often in Alaska, where national brands market but generally have little or no penetration.

“Alaska is very unique, most of the QSRs have all experienced the same thing. Longer honeymoon periods for one, and people will drive hundreds and hundreds of miles for a cheeseburger,” said Clark. “Burger King, when they opened years ago, people were driving nine hours to buy 100 cheeseburgers to bring home.”

Franchise Times also reached out to Johnny Jones, vice president of development and construction with SONIC, to weigh in on why SONIC is able to open in the Alaskan market.

“SONIC started as a drive-in concept, about 20 years ago we started moving to a drive-thru,” Jones says in the article. “Then in the last 10 years, we’ve giving franchisees the option to build inside diners. We do those more in our colder markets.”

Jones is expecting that SONIC will thrive in a small market like Wasilla, as SONIC has typically thrived in smaller to mid-size markets, where the brand has the unique ability to become a part of the community it serves.

“If you look at the trade area and the town, it’s not that different from where SONIC got it roots,” Jones says in the article. “We’ve generally built in smaller communities, if you look at Wasilla, in the 5-mile radius is 30,000 people, so that’s really the bread and butter of SONIC.”

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