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SONIC Senior VP of Development Drew Ritger on What Makes Us Operationally Excellent

Consumers have more dollars to spend, and SONIC stands out in a crowded QSR landscape with consistent food and service

SDI 2007 Beauty Shot_1000pxSONIC® is positioned to outperform the typical QSR in a world where consumers have more money to spend and the competition is intense.

“Everything at SONIC is about the customer. We strive to be operationally excellent on all levels,” says Drew Ritger, Senior Vice President of Development. “Customers like consistency, and consistency of operations can be a real challenge in the QSR world. We have an operations culture that is extremely driven and profitable.”

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 and the communities where our franchise owners operate. We are in the middle of a major nationwide expansion, capitalizing on a series of historic revenue increases and joining SONIC makes more sense than ever as we set a goal of 1,000 new stores by the end of 2024.

Drew recently shared his thoughts about what sets SONIC apart from our competitors as we strive operationally to help franchisees increase profit margins and run the most efficient restaurants possible. In his 20 years with SONIC, he’s seen a lot of exciting change and growth as our iconic brand becomes a favorite nationwide. Here’s what he had to say.

How is the changing marketplace affecting customer choice?

Today’s market is extraordinarily competitive. There are more outlets offering more choices for your discretionary dollar than ever before. The range of competition for that discretionary food dollar has never been more intense. Franchisees have to manage the brand, and it has to be relevant because ultimately that’s what brings people in. You have to be able to take care of the customer when they’re there and provide consistent service. Otherwise, because all of us are time stressed, someone could tell their spouse, “Let’s go to XYZ restaurant,” and the spouse could respond, “I’m a little tight on time and sometimes it can be ten minutes, sometimes it can be five minutes. I don’t really want to take the risk that I could be late for my 1 o’clock meeting, so let’s go to Lori’s Diner.”

How does SONIC respond by providing consistently excellent customer service?

SONIC slushIt is critical that we create expectations with our consumer that establish that it’s pleasurable to come to SONIC. You get carhop service, which is a fast, friendly, relevant service to you, as well as predictable. The quality of the product is consistent and hopefully above market average every time. The timing of products also must be consistent. If I order something, then I generally get an expectation of “It’s going to take this amount of time.” For example, if I’m ordering a drink, I know that should take two minutes, not ten.

How do SONIC’s high service standards align with our service model to deliver operational excellence?

It’s really critical for us that we align our service standards and our service models. In doing so, we ask some key questions: Do our facilities allow our operators to meet those expectations? Do our hiring and training practices allow us to bring people in culturally that can meet those needs and be a credit to the brand? Does our facility layout and equipment design all meet that need so you get a high level of quality and a high level of predictability in the experience, in addition to menu choice, customization and carhop service? If you don’t have all of that, and you miss on one of those, then you end up in a situation where you’re probably not going to maximize traffic, because there will be an element to you that is slightly unknown for customers. People don’t like to have a lot of unknown in their decisions. This isn’t just important at the store level, but also at the operational level in terms of helping franchisees grow and scale.

What support tools are in place to help franchisees succeed?

Every franchisee turns in profit and loss reports so we can analyze them and ask, “What are their service standards? What does their income statement say?” We’re able to help them fine-tune that. Then our job is providing resources to help franchisees leverage that into growth. The unit level economics are really critical. Our tools are designed to maximize profit and growth.

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.