Sonic has provided a unique way for consumers to order food since 1953, and it has helped to shape the fast food industry in that time. Its diverse lineup of burgers, hot dogs, fries, ice cream, slushies, and more make for a unique dining experience.
Year Founded: 1953
Revenue: $606 million (2015)
Employees: Approximately 400,000
Sonic’s work in the fast food industry has been incredibly important. They have been pioneers, and without them this industry would look decidedly different. They are the masters of the drive-in, and they understand true fast food better than most. Sonic is a true American brand, and unlike many of their competitors, including Taco Bell and Burger King, it is one that has remained in the United States throughout its history.
Sonic may not be well known outside of the US, but it is certainly well known inside of it.
Sonic the Early Years
Troy Smith, a native of Seminole, Oklahoma, enlisted in the US military during the Second World War. He served his time and returned home to Seminole keen to make his name in the business world. The food and drink industry beckoned Smith and he opened a root beer stand in 1953.
Named “Top Hat”, this stand proved somewhat popular, turning over a yearly profit and helping to boost Smith’s coffers considerably. While his business was in operation Smith discovered a a new method for taking orders, and one he thought might increase his turnover. This method involved the use of intercoms in a car-park, with customers driving up, saying their order and then playing music for them while they waited. As soon as their order was ready, a server, known as a “Carhop”, would deliver it to their window on roller skates.
This idea was taken from another restaurant and tweaked so it was more productive. And it worked, as Top Hat saw an instant increase in revenue, and one that continued to grow.
As he looked to expand the business, Smith learned that the Top Hat name had already been licensed. He was already using the slogan, “Service with the Speed of Sound”, so he decided upon a new name that tied in with that, and the Sonic Drive-in was born.
The very first Sonic restaurant stood until 2015, when it was eventually demolished. The founder, Troy Smith, had died 6 years earlier. But he had lived to see Sonic grow into one of the biggest fast food chains in North America.
Sonic sells traditional American fast food, with a menu consisting of burgers, fries, coffee and chicken. There is also a heavy Mexican influence, which is not a surprise when you consider that this is one of (if not the) most popular cuisines in the country. You won’t find quite as much Mexican fare as you would in Taco Bell or Chipotle, but there is a nice mixture of burritos, chilli and more.
Some of the most popular Sonic menu items are drinks, including slushies and soft drinks. One such drink is the Cherry Limeade. In fact, all of the Cherry Limeade sold in a year could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool (that’s a swim we’d definitely love to take).
Sonic Secret Menu
With more than 60 years behind it and with millions of customers to satisfy, it’s no surprise that the Sonic secret menu is one of the most extensive around. It is big enough to rival the McDonalds secret menu and unique enough to rival the KFC secret menu.
From simple Grilled Ham and Cheese sandwiches, to a calorific Frito Pie, the Sonic secret menu is not to be missed. There are also scores of drink hacks, dessert hacks and more. If you love Sonic and you want to try something new, this secret menu is a must see.
Sonic Nutrition and Calories
There are healthy options on all fast food menus, including Sonic. That never used to be the case, but we’re a little more health conscious these days and the big chains have been forced to cater for that in fear of losing face and (more importantly) money.
Burgers, fries and sugar-loaded slushies are not healthy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But in moderation they are okay. If you’re watching your weight, you can still find room for these items, you just need to make sure you don’t eat them for every meal.
To learn more about Sonic nutrition, read our guide on the subject. On this page you will find everything you could want to know about your favorite drive-in. This includes calorie, fat, sugar and sodium information for each Sonic menu item.
Sonic Menu Prices
The small version of the famous Sonic Limeade costs just $1.69 (prices may vary), while the large is $2.29. If you’d prefer, and if you have a big thirst to satisfy, then you can pickup a gallon of iced tea for $3,99.
Sonic Combos are also very popular. These are meal deals that give you your favorite burger/snack with a choice of sides and drink. There is also a sizeable breakfast menu. Here you can get everything from a $2.99 simple burrito to a $4.99 5-pack of Cinnasnacks.
Overall, Sonic menu prices are very reasonable, especially when you consider that you don’t even have to get out of your car to take advantage of them.
In the early years, and throughout much of the first 2 decades, Sonic played a big role in small-town life. All of their locations were in small towns across America. This is where the Sonic name had taken root, serving the people of Troy Smith’s home town in Oklahoma, and it’s where it grew into the brand that it is today.
These days, there are Sonic restaurants in many cities across the US. But there is still a large number in quaint towns nationwide. There are also locations branded under the name “Sonic Beach”, which are found in the state of Florida and offer menus with a little more variety. As well as food and drink more fitting of the sunshine location, Sonic Beach also sells beer. You can even buy a bottle of champagne!
In 2014, Sonic announced that it would grow considerably in the following decade. They promised that there would be another 300 locations in California, and a further 700 spread across the rest of the country. So, if there isn’t a Sonic Drive-in near you just yet, just give it time.
Sonic Store Hours
Sonic store hours may vary by location, but typically you will find that they open at 7:00am and remain open until 12:00am. Basically, they are there from your first meal of the day to your last, and they have a menu that can cater for each of them. Some locations open until 2:00am on certain days, but others may close earlier than 12:00am on Sundays and certain holidays.