Sonic Corp. plans to open 1,000 new drive-in restaurants over the next 10 years, expanding the chain by about 30 percent.
Although Sonic already has about 270 drive-in restaurants in Oklahoma, there’s still room for expansion in the state, said John Budd, Sonic’s chief development and strategy officer.
“It can be a matter of pride in a lot of small towns when you get your first Sonic, so we still have a lot of towns around the state to grow,” Budd said.
There are now about 3,500 Sonic Drive-Ins throughout 44 states. Sonic has a goal of expanding into all 50 states. In comparison, Burger King, Sonic’s next largest competitor, has about 7,100 locations in the United States.
While the company’s core market has always been Oklahoma and Texas, Budd said other states might not be familiar with Sonic’s car-centric, drive-in format at first. The company has had to make adjustments to the design of its restaurants to suit other climates. In colder regions of the country, that means putting in dining rooms as well as the patio seating that is familiar to Sonic customers in Oklahoma. Adding drive-thru windows at some Sonic locations has also been important to expanding the Sonic brand to other states where the concept of a drive-in restaurant is unfamiliar.
“The core of the brand is as a drive-in, and we expect it will remain that way,” Budd said.
Sonic plans to ramp up restaurant growth over the next several years, opening 40 to 50 new locations in the next year, 60 to 70 locations the following year, and adding 80 to 90 new locations in three years.