ORLANDO — The drive-in restaurant is getting a thoroughly modern makeover.
Sonic Corp. is shaking up its old-school format with new technology enhancements designed to increase same-store sales.
“Our focus is on how can we enhance the consumer experience even more by providing much more of a customer connection with them, being able to target messages to that individual person that meet and suit their needs,” said Claudia San Pedro, vice president of investor relations and treasurer for the Oklahoma City-based drive-in chain, during a Jan. 13 presentation at the Integrated Corporate Relations XChange in Orlando. “And so as we look forward to how we can do that, one of the things that we have the ability to do that no other concept has really is because of that drive-in concept, when that customer pulls into that drive-in stall, they usually spend about 11 minutes at that stall from the pre-order phase until the time they get their meal. We have planned to have the point-of-personalized service, a digital technology board with eventual interactive menu board, and this allows us to not only tailor our customized offers to them based on their past purchasing history, but allows us to do on-site redeemable offers to them.”
For example, if a customer orders a hamburger only, the digital menu board may suggest the addition of ice cream. A new mobile app not only enables customers to pay from their devices but also sends personalized, targeted messages. Sonic expects the point-of-personalized-service system will help drive low-single-digit same-store sales growth as it rolls out over the next three to four years. The system is currently being tested in 60 of the company’s 3,500 drive-ins.
A new point-of-sale system also has been implemented in about 70 drive-ins and is expected to expand throughout the year.
Additionally, Sonic has added new software to help streamline its supply chain.
“That system is now up and running, and we’re in the process of working with our suppliers to utilize the system,” said Steve Vaughan, executive vice president and CFO. “We anticipate over the next 12 to 24 months we’ll start to see the benefits of this with our suppliers having less inventory and giving us a better price in terms of the products that we’re buying from them.”
Beyond technology enhancements, Sonic prides itself on an innovative and eclectic pipeline, which last year included a peanut butter and bacon shake and a hot dog on a pretzel bun.
“That’s a key part of our success as a brand and will continue to play an important role as we go forward,” San Pedro said.