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Sonic Franchise Review

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What's as fast as the speed of sound and comes with your choice of condiments? Sonic, America's Drive-In. It all started in1953 with a small hamburger and root beer stand named "Top Hat Drive-In" located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Top Hat changed its name to Sonic in 1959 and today the franchise chain has more than 3,500 drive-ins coast to coast serving over a million customers every day.
By offering made-to-order American fare with curbside speakers and speedy Carhops, Sonic (Service with the Speed of Sound) Corporation has built its empire around the drive-in restaurant experience. Today, the Sonic brand is the nation's largest chain of drive-in restaurants.

Background and Benefits

Sonic boasts one of the lowest turnover ratios in quick-service restaurant franchises. Customers can park under a shady canopy and order food through the curbside speakers. A friendly Carhop delivers orders out to the car where patrons can eat it or take it home. The concept cuts down on busy drive through lines and presents a unique eating experience to customers. A standard store layout with 24 to 36 stalls requires approximately ¾ of an acre for build out. Sonic Food is made-to-order with unique menu items not offered at other QSR's. Sonic maintains strong sales growth, with remarkable customer frequency statistics and continued high returns for stockholders.

How Much Does a Sonic Franchise Cost?

Sonic offers franchises in two different formats, traditional and non-traditional.

Traditional franchises come with a 20-year term, and a 10-year renewal opportunity with a $45,000 franchise fee requirement. The total initial investment ranges from $710,000 to $3 million with cash liquidity of $1 million and total net worth of $1 million in order to meet the 2-store minimum. Royalty fees are 4 to 5 percent; advertising fees are 5.9 percent.

Non-traditional franchises start with a 10-year term, a 5-year renewal, and a $22,500 franchise fee. The total initial investment ranges from $434,000 to $545,000, excluding land costs. Other non-traditional locations start with a manageable investment of $107,000 to $221,000. In addition, you must have prior or current successful restaurant experience and/or strong entrepreneurial skills. Sonic offers a 12-week training program that includes eight weeks of restaurant training, three weeks at new store openings and one week of classroom training. *Sonic opportunities are not available in every state. Check the website for available markets

What We Like

Sonic offers a concept-marketing brand that spans 5 decades. A Sonic franchise offers unique menu options and outside service convenience while retaining face-to-face contact with customers. Patrons enjoy the fast and friendly Carhops enough to visit over 3500 Sonic restaurants a million times per day! Sonic started out as a hamburger and root beer stand and the first drive-in Sonic franchise is still serving customers in Stillwater, Oklahoma.


  • Unit Sales - Average unit sales have increased each year since 1987.
  • Conceptualized Marketing - The Happy Hour concept drives traffic and sales throughout the system.


  • No One-Hit-Wonders - Sonic only accepting franchisees qualified to open 2 or more drive-ins.

Sonic Drive In Restaurants Franchise Information

Business Established: 1953
Franchising Since: 1956
Franchise Fee: $22,500 to 45,000
Total Investment (US): $107,000 to $3 million depending on store type

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