In terms of revenue, the perennial chain has lagged behind its competition.
This article is based on corporate postings and accredited media reports. All linked information within this article is fully-attributed to the following outlets: Mashed.com, Wikipedia.org, ScrapeHero.com, SonicDriveIn.com, Google.com, Nation’s Restaurant News, and QSRMagazine.com.
This article represents the latest in a series that attempts to elucidate the truth behind internet rumors of business closures.
According to an August, 2021 article from Mashed.com, entitled “Sonic is Struggling to Stay in Business. Here’s Why,” from 2015 to 2019 the burger chain saw quarter-to-quarter drops in revenue and sales for those four straight years. The company picked up a bit prior to the pandemic, but today continues to lag far behind similar chains.
As excerpted from Mashed.com: Today, Sonic continues to rank well below its major fast food competitors when it comes to sales and revenue. In Restaurant Business Magazine's ranking of the top 500 restaurant chains for 2019, Sonic came in at number 13, behind McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. Other popular chains like Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Subway also outrank Sonic when it comes to sales and revenue.
Location numbers, however, remain strong. According to ScrapeHero.com: There are 3,546 Sonicdrivein locations in the United States as of June 07, 2022. The state with the most number of Sonicdrivein locations in the US is Texas, with 956 locations, which is 26% of all Sonic Drive-In locations in America.
The Mashed piece was an early online example to disclose business issues within the company. Rumors as to the company’s continued longevity, as per a targeted Google search, began soon thereafter.
But, in truth, does Sonic have plans to close permanently if their numbers do not improve?
Let us explore further.
Per Wikipedia, which states the chain was founded in 1953: Sonic Corporation, founded as Sonic Drive-In and more commonly known as Sonic (stylized as SONIC), or "The Drive-In," is an American drive-in fast food restaurant chain owned by Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby's and Buffalo Wild Wings. As of 2022, 3,550 Sonic restaurants are located in 46 U.S. states. In 2020, Sonic was ranked 14th in QSR Magazine's rankings of the top 50 quick-service and fast-casual restaurant brands in the nation. Known for its use of carhops on roller skates, the company annually hosts a competition (in most locations) to determine the top skating carhop in its system.
The slight discrepancy of numbers from the up-to-date ScrapeHero.com listing, and the Wikipedia page should be noted; the former represents the current accurate location count. According to the official SonicDriveIn.com site and other outlets featuring stories on the company, the rest of Wikipedia’s information is correct and consistent.
Today, there have been no formal corporate announcements of either widespread closings or openings of U.S.-based Sonic restaurants, though the company’s franchise opportunities remain open. There was, however, an article from Nation’s Restaurant News (nrn.com) that addressed plans for international expansion.
From the Nation’s Restaurant News article, “Sonic Eyes International Expansion”: “Sonic is one of the few, large brands that is only domestic,” said Claudia San Pedro, who has been president of the Oklahoma City-based chain since 2018. She said Sonic will leverage the international expertise of its parent company, Inspire Brands, to grow the Sonic restaurant concept outside the U.S. “over the next couple of years.
Though the article was written prior to the announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a strategic business shift (see below), the company’s eye on international expansion appears to be renewed based on announcements published on the company’s website.
Like most restaurants during the Covid era, Sonic took a business turn towards digital following a growth year. See QSRMagazine.com article here. As there has been no credible word to the contrary, the online rumors of a permanent company closure appear to be false.
Thank you for reading.