What Is a SONIC Franchise?

We offer an innovative, one-of-a-kind QSR franchise concept that is growing

SONIC® is America’s drive-in, serving more than 3 million customers a day at over 3,600 locations nationwide. We’re an iconic brand with a rich heritage that encompasses 60 years; we believe in excellent customer service and developing core relationships with our customers and the communities in which we operate.

SONIC continually finds new ways to use technology to optimize the customer experience with a spirit of innovation that pays tribute to the beliefs of co-founder Troy Smith. We serve hot food made to order across all five dayparts, and our menu offerings are unsurpassed. Customization is at the core of what we do, and our drink combinations — which constitute over 39 percent of our business — burgers and real ice cream milkshakes and slush drinks make us as classic as a cherry limeade for customers of all ages.

SONIC has QSR franchises in nearly all 50 states, and our aggressive growth goals and national brand recognition have us on target to rapidly expand over the next decade. As we have grown, we have adapted to the needs of our consumers, modifying our traditional drive-in model to offer restaurants with features such as indoor dining.

At the core of SONIC’s business model are seven distinct themes that set us apart and significantly ahead of our competition: the drive-in experience, customization, the BLADE (breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening) five-daypart strategy, technology, innovation, advertising power and operational excellence.

QSR Franchising: The drive-in experience

The unique SONIC drive-in model places us at a strong advantage over other QSR franchises. Although we pride ourselves on our menu, the SONIC experience is more than just hot and fresh food made to order, or frozen treats and drinks. SONIC is an experience unlike any other in the QSR franchise industry. Customers park in colorful canopy-covered spaces and push our signature red button when they are ready to order — and the magic begins. A friendly carhop delivers made-to-order food and drinks directly to customers in their cars, which provide the comfort and familiarity of a mobile living room. The SONIC experience offers customization, control and choice.

SONIC QSR franchise burgerCustomization

Since its humble beginnings in the 1950s, SONIC has always been about customization. We offer thousands of options on our drink menu alone. As SONIC utilizes technology to further customize the customer experience, we will have the ability to tailor promotions and specials to a specific individual. Our POPS (point of personalized service) system is being upgraded system-wide and will add targeted messaging and customized promotions using mobile technology and social media.

BLADE five-daypart strategy

Because SONIC maximizes all five dayparts through its BLADE (breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening) strategy, the ROI for a SONIC Drive-In remains strong. “SONIC customers use us more broadly, rather than just breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s given us a great platform to use our innovation to be able to make each of those dayparts more relevant. There are dollars to be spent or consumed, and SONIC is a great choice. Our menu variety is outstanding,” says Vice President of Real Estate and Development Johnny Jones.


As we enter the digital age, SONIC’s investment in technology will build an interactive environment that will take customization to another level. Our business is built on personal relationships, and technology can add another layer to that experience. Mobile ordering and payment will offer even more customization for our customers, making it easier to order their SONIC menu favorites, as well as create a personalized digital advertising platform that enables us to push tailored promotions to individual customers.


Carhops at a SONIC QSR franchise

SONIC has embraced innovation from day one, when founder Troy Smith installed speakers in each drive-in stall and continually looked for ways to innovate and improve customer service. As we embrace the digital age, we are making enhancements to the ordering experience that will take our personalized dining experience to even more interactive levels. Special offers and discounts based on consumer buying history and localized promotions delivered digitally will connect SONIC with customers in a more personal way by leveraging mobile technology.

Advertising power

SONIC’s iconic Two Guys advertising campaign is one of the most successful advertising campaigns in QSR history, providing instant brand recognition and unprecedented advertising muscle to SONIC franchisees on opening day and beyond. The Two Guys campaign resonates particularly well with Millennials, a growing customer base for SONIC, who seek out a dining experience that they control and customize. The Two Guys campaign is loved by people of all ages, however, and establishes our brand even in markets where we do not yet have a physical franchise presence.

SONIC offers significant opportunity for expansion in all 50 states, particularly along the East and West coasts, and there is ample opportunity for growth in our existing core markets, as well. SONIC’s growth is at an all-time high, and the time to join our team has never been better. We are poised for expansion.

Operational excellence

At SONIC we optimize unit-level economics, leveraging our national buying power and closely analyzing individual store sales to optimize efficiency. As a result, our average gross sales by store increased from $1,072,000 in 2012 to $1,257,000 in 2018. Our leadership is unmatched, and our departments work collaboratively to maximize efficiency and profits across all facets of the business. Our national buying power of $1.2 billion helps us control costs system-wide. In addition, SONIC’s purchasing department works closely with the marketing and innovation teams to ensure that every SONIC restaurant has 100 percent availability of the right product at the best costs.

SONIC sets itself apart from QSR franchises in our method of purchasing to keep costs down. Every step of the purchasing process is closely monitored to ensure that SONIC meets the regional demands and taste differentiations of customers.

What does it cost to open a SONIC?

The license fee for a traditional Sonic restaurant is $45,000, with a total investment ranging from $1.22 million to $3.53 million (excluding land). The license fee for a non-traditional Sonic restaurant is $22,500, with a total investment ranging from $356,500 to $977,300 (excluding land). The net worth of a partner can be used toward the total net worth/liquidity requirements. The term of a SONIC franchise ranges from 10 – 20 years, plus a 10-year renewal option.

“We are looking for franchisees who want to be part of a family-oriented culture with a can-do entrepreneurial attitude,” says President Claudia San Pedro.

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