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Sonic America's Drive-In

Essay by   •  February 21, 2013  •  Case Study  •  3,134 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,356 Views

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Executive Summary

SONIC America's Drive-In is a fast food joint where customers drive into a car slot and order from a menu at the driver's side. Orders are placed through an intercom system, and then you can swipe your plastic card near the intercom to pay. The novelty is that servers roller skate out to your car for a true drive-in experience. There are two options either you can take your order to go, or stay and eat in the car. "SONIC has over 3,500 locations in more than 40 states, serving around 3 million customers per day. SONIC offers a food selection of hamburgers, chili cheese hot dogs, onion rings and tater tots, along with breakfast burritos, wrap sandwiches, and frozen desserts" (

Success in any business is both analyzing the past experiences and searching for future opportunities and SONIC is no exception in this matter. To win more customers they will need to come up with some innovative ideas. Obviously, their specialty service, the drive-in experience cannot be enjoyed without a vehicle. Establishment of new indoor dine-in areas could serve the potential walk- in customer's needs. Also it is increasingly difficult to fight the cold weather for the roller skating servers in some part of the United States, but more importantly it is a interfering factor for SONIC in their further expansion. In addition, fast food restaurant's marketing strategy that they provide all of their consumers with the possibility to socialize with others in a relaxed ambiance cannot be successful if you need to seat in your car while eating your food. They provide with limited number of outdoor siting place, but again, SONIC needs to solve the weather issue to satisfy their customer's wants and needs.

To eliminate the geographical barriers of northern states in order to increase the number of franchises is one of the main objectives to achieve. Moreover the given business concept, that they built their company on the car based culture loses them profit and customers. SONIC's strategy planning and a clear vision statement must also be defined. They need to identify their target market and what they need to do to satisfy them and to ensure the continuous growth of their business.

Problems/ Issues

The main characteristic of fast food is its convenience, but SONIC is an exception in this matter, because they are not on every corner and cannot be reached without a car. SONIC's less availability translates into a decrease in the number of their customers. Accessibility is a key point at any fast food restaurant's strategy, therefore most well-known fast food chains can be found at gas stations, college campuses, department stores, plazas, malls and other convenient locations which allow customers to buy their food anytime and anywhere, but SONIC lacks this opportunity due to their unique way of serving customers. Moreover, all big fast food franchisors (e.g.: McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King) realized that they need to open and be available to customers outside the United States to achieve their goal to be successful and most profitable possible. Limitations of SONIC come from two sources. First of all, full legal name is SONIC America's drive-in, so they suggests that they want to serve American customers and their roller skating hosts set them boundaries when it is cold or rains or snows.

Consumer/customer analysis

Based on the nature of SONIC's business concept each customer has to have a car. This general statement could be slightly different in a case of other family members or friends driving you to a SONIC drive-in restaurant but the matter of fact is that you cannot be served at SONIC without sitting in a car. This concept has been working exceptionally great as a key differentiator from other fast food chains. The above mentioned statement clearly defines the type of people and generation who could be considered as the customer of SONIC. Just as an example, the young generation who could walk in to another fast food restaurant such as McDonald's and Subway but does not have a car and/or driver's license cannot become a potential customer of SONIC. Even though SONIC is a fast food chain franchise corporation in certain case when customers would like to sit at a table and cannot accept the fact that SONIC would like to use their cars as their dining area would not park in in a SONIC drive-in. Their target market is people with an easy going lifestyle and obviously with a car who could settle for SONIC's expectation of leveraging their vehicles as a dining set. The same customers need to put up with the fact that the usage of restrooms at SONIC is a difficult exercise in a sense that you need to get out of your car and walk to the back of the diner and try to access the very limited number of single stalls if those are available at all. Without criticizing and listing all limitations of SONIC it is apparent that people without a vehicle are out of the business of SONIC and even though you either drive or someone drives you to a SONIC restaurant you still need to sacrifices some of typical expectation of an eating out occasion.

Competitive analysis

SONIC is viewed as a typical fast food chain restaurant who is one of the biggest players of the US market. "Their whole business started in 1954 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as a sole proprietorship and has grown into a publicly traded corporation within 32 years" ( As their competitors concerned, they have had several large corporations competing with them on the United States fast food market but they have reserved their uniqueness with their market differentiators such as the drive-in offering, the "serving at the speed of sound" in other words the telecom speakers system, some of their exclusive products like tater tots and their extensive drink and frozen products selections. Taking a closer look at all the competitors of SONIC we could easily come to the conclusion that those restaurants don't have anything to offer as drive-in services. They do have the drive-thru as an alternate option but that is only similar to the SONIC idea. On the other hand the competitors' menu selection offers some healthy choices for instance salads. SONIC is stuck with the old fashion comfort foods, grilled cheese sandwiches or corn dogs. Competitors like McDonald's are often offended by consumers and dietitians that their greasy foods are one of the root causes of obesity in the United States therefore they have been forced to redefine their menu items and offerings. SONIC is behind in this war as they have done little to no change to make their meals and drinks



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