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How Much Does it Cost to Open a Sonic Drive-In Franchise? (Fees + FDD)

Sonic franchise cost, the biggest and most well-known drive-in restaurant business in the country, SONIC® has been providing hot, fresh, and custom-made meals for over 60 years.

sonic franchise cost

 We have open land, and prime sites in all 50 states, and we are fast growing. More than just a well-known brand, SONIC is a sound franchise investment with an eye toward the future.

Supported by visionary leadership, powerful national advertising, and operational excellence.

Although they are no longer a requirement for employees, the restaurant is famous for its carhops that wear skates. Some workers decide to skate.

Sonic has a distinctive menu selection, particularly for drinks. Customers can order burgers, 12-inch coneys, shakes, and limeades. In the last 60 years, Sonic has expanded to over 3,500 outlets, sonic franchise cost.

Information on the Sonic Franchise Cost

sonic franchise cost

Troy Smith established Sonic Franchise LLC in 1953. Atlanta, Georgia is home to the company’s headquarters.

Sonic brand drive-in restaurants are known for their distinctive menu of high-quality, made-to-order culinary items with cutting-edge technology.

Sonic Franchising LLC licenses the operation of Sonic restaurants, which serve a variety of foods like cheeseburgers, chicken dinners, hot dogs, specialty drinks, and ice cream desserts.

Franchises of Sonic Restaurants

The humble beginnings of the SONIC chain have led to it becoming one of the most instantly identifiable brands in the country.

 Currently, the corporation has over 3,500 franchise stores across 46 US States, from coast to coast. Of the 3500 total stores, 271 are owned by the corporation.

 Millions of followers who incorporate SONIC into their daily lives support the well-known Sonic brand in the restaurant and food industries.

What is the Price Tag for Starting a Sonic Drive-In?

You must have a minimum net worth of $1.00 million and $500,000 in liquid capital to run a Sonic Drive-In.

A typical Sonic Drive-In is expected to cost between $1,242,200 and $3,537,700 to open. For a conventional location, the franchise fee is $45,000.

Before you apply to become a franchise operator for this fast food company, read on for more information on its sales, facts, advantages, and difficulties, sonic franchise cost.

I outline the sonic franchise cost, benefits, and difficulties of this idea that you need to be aware of.

Financial Conditions and Costs

The costs associated with a typical Sonic Drive-In are listed below:

Fees / ExpensesAmount of money
Gross ValueMinimum of $1,000,000
Franchise Charge$35,000
Lean Capital$500,000
Total Expenditure$1,242,200 – $3,537,700

Please note that the information in the table above only applies to conventional units. The liquid capital and net worth are unchanged for non-traditional ones.

But the expected total investment ranges from $361,900 to $978,700 with a license cost of $22,500.

What distinguishes the typical and non-traditional Sonic Drive-In locations? Traditional units are chains where you may find a complete restaurant on your own with a parking space.

Along with the carhop service, it has drive-in spaces for about 8 to 24 cars. Additionally, the store might offer indoor dining options and patio seats.

The restaurants you find at shopping centers, airports, educational and governmental institutions, and similar places are non-traditional units. Typically, these non-traditional restaurants lack a drive-in service.

A standard Sonic Drive-In has a 20-year license agreement with the opportunity to extend it for an additional 10 years.

Non-traditional contracts range in length from five to ten years, with the possibility of a five-year extension.

The Sonic Drive-In royalty fee, which is a maximum of 5% of your store’s gross sales if you signed up for a standard unit and 4% for a non-traditional unit, is another expense to be aware of.

There are an additional $9,000 in regular renewal fees and $4,500 in non-traditional renewal fees.

These are the expenses that you should know prior to submitting an application to become one of Sonic’s franchise operators.

 They will share more technical specifics with you before you sign up with them. Make sure you’re OK with these costs from the standpoint of an investor or operator.

Average Annual Sales or Revenue Sonic Franchise Cost

Annual revenue for Sonic Drive-In is in the billions. Restaurant Business Online reported $5.680 billion in system-wide sales for the year 2020.

In addition, they stated their sales increased by 21.2% when compared to the $4.687 billion in sales made the prior year.

Since most businesses were affected by government lockdowns during this time, these figures are a relief.

 But because of a marketing shift made by the chain’s president Claudia San Pedro in 2018, when Sonic started featuring guests eating in their cars, Sonic Drive-In was able to persist and expand.

 They put that even if the health crisis in 2020 occurred years before this marketing plan in place, you have to realize that it was a great time for a change.

 In 2019, revenues at Sonic Drive-In increased by 5%, demonstrating the company’s expansion.

Facts About the Sonic Drive-In franchise

Overall UnitsGreater than 3,000
Franchise Since1959
Organizational NameSonic Corporation
IndustryFast-Food Restaurant
SubsectorFood and Drink

In 1953 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Top Hat Drive-In was the antecedent of Sonic Drive-In.

Troy Smith established Top Hat after converting the business from a root beer stand to a restaurant serving freshly prepared hot dogs and hamburgers.

 They forced Troy Smith to stop at four units and alter the name to Sonic with the tagline “Service with the Speed of Sound” since the name Top Hat was copyrighted at the time. Sonic had more than 100 stores by 1973.

Sonic Drive-Ins’ sales surpassed $2 billion in 2001. For the tenth year running, Forbes recognized them as one of the “200 Best Small Companies in America” in 2003.

Teen People’s magazine recognized Sonic as having one of the “Top 10 Jobs that Rock” because of how many teenagers it hired.

Sonic Drive-In is now ranked 14th among the Top 50 Biggest Brands in America for the year 2020 by QSR Magazine.

Most people know Sonic Drive-In for their carhop service. This kind of service enables vehicles to park in areas with intercoms so that you may place your order.

 The crew then brings your orders to your cars so that you don’t have to leave the driveway to go home and eat. Instead, you immediately get to eat.

The chain’s menu features grilled or crispy chicken sandwiches, foot-long coneys, breakfast burritos available all day, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, tots, fries, pretzel sticks, and popcorn chicken as sides.

They collaborated with Cinnabon to offer Cinnasnacks, which are miniature cinnamon pastries prepared using Cinnabon’s distinctive ingredients.

You might assume that Sonic Drive-In already has a sizable selection of menu options. But the drinks offer the greatest variety.

Model for Sonic Indoor Dining

For colder climates, this model is appropriate. It is a model created for an indoor eating room. This design also includes a drive-thru and a patio with seating.

 39% of Sonic’s menu is made up of their beverage selection. Their limeades are well-known. A top seller is frequently noted as being the Strawberry Limeade.

Along with iced tea, milkshakes are also widely consumed. There are over 1,063,953 drink combinations available at Sonic Drive-In. You could visit Sonic every day and never tire of the variety of drinks they provide.

The business Sonic Drive-In asks that potential franchisees have some prior experience operating their drive-in. Sonic Drive-In is looking for the following qualities in applicants:

  • possesses restaurant or multi-unit experience
  • able to motivate, guide, and grow a management team
  • Strong entrepreneurial skills are required.
  • must be a contributing member of the community
  • and possesses knowledge of retail sales

They demand that you live nearby or in the general vicinity of the potential location of your planned Sonic Drive-In unit.

A lot of employees will be hired by you as well. To run one Sonic Drive-In, at least they must hire 25 people.

It usually takes 6 to 8 months to secure your future Sonic Drive-In location after they have approved everything.

Additionally, it usually takes 90 days to complete construction and open a Sonic Drive-In location.

The parent company of Sonic Drive-In, Inspire Brands, which also owns Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’ Donuts, Rusty Taco, and Jimmy John’s Sandwiches, has its headquarters in Oklahoma City.

How Much Profit Does Sonic Drive-In Make?

Sonic Drive-net In’s income from 2009 to 2018 is $71.21 million, according to data from Statista. Given their projected revenue growth for 2020.

You might expect that these numbers have altered and increased by now.

According to other industry data, franchise owners’ average gross sales were $1,246,000 in 2015. 23% of Sonic Drive-Ins had gross sales of more than $1.5 million in that same year.

Again, given Sonic Drive-rapid In’s expansion, you may expect that these figures might get even better.


Benefits of Owning a Sonic Drive-In

You will always have difficulties while managing a firm. In order for you to prepare for the journey, I’m here to inform you of what they are before you dive in. These are the sonic franchise cost benefits.


You may be sure that everyone is familiar with Sonic Drive-In given its over 3,500 sites.

Yes, even individuals who don’t have a Sonic store nearby are aware of who they are and what they offer because of the company’s ubiquitous advertising.

Considering this, marketing a Sonic Drive-In needn’t be a concern. There’s a strong probability that many people will visit your store to look it over.

Whether they do so out of curiosity about you or because they already know who you are and need to satiate their appetites.

This is the effectiveness of national advertising campaigns that run on television, radio, and the internet.


It’s excellent to have thousands of places across the country, but what happens after you attain this aim? Does the business intend to grow further?

You’ll be glad to hear that Sonic Drive-In isn’t content to limit its dominance to the US. they intend to grow globally.

 We don’t yet know where those potential places will be. The president of this important fast food chain, Claudia San Pedro, hasn’t yet provided any details.

However, this gives some people who want to franchise a Sonic Drive-In outside of the US hope.

Keeping the Classics Alive

The classics are still available at Sonic Drive-In after all these years. It’s not only the cuisine, either. Sonic Drive-In is in a good position today, as drive-thrush are becoming more common for fast food franchises.

It’s also possible that not all locations currently employ carhops on skates, but they haven’t fully done away with the practice since some servers in some locations still approach customers with their orders while skating.

The inside and exterior designs of Sonic Drive-In also have that ageless, retro-futuristic diner aesthetic.

Sonic Drive-In Franchise Challenges

Here are some difficulties I discovered while looking into this sonic franchise cost.

Has No Financing Available

Despite having a well-known brand, Sonic Drive-In does not provide finance to those looking for help with franchising their locations.

As noted in the FAQs on their website, they do have a preferred list of lenders, but that is all they can do to assist you.


As was already noted, a Sonic Drive-Ins location needs at least 25 staff members to operate. It’s difficult to find qualified candidates for these positions since,

 As you may have heard, the hospitality and food service sector is experiencing a historic labor shortage.

If Sonic switched to drive-through service instead of a drive-in, it would likely be simpler and require fewer staff members.

But I also realize there’s a component of the classic appeal that draws in customers.

Place Dimensions

The fast-food restaurant franchise requires too much room for the number of cars that may park and eat there due to its drive-in service.

When it comes to renting or purchasing a place for your potential Sonic Drive-In, this can be expensive.

A Sonic Drive-In Franchise: Are You a Good Fit?

Go for it if you have the money to do so! Sonic Drive-In franchise costs a lot of money, but it appears to be profitable. If you want additional details, we still advise that you speak with a financial counselor.


I hope this information on Sonic Drive-In franchising was useful! By submitting an application to join their franchise family.

You may manage one of America’s most recognizable fast-food restaurants and take part in their expansion ambitions in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

The license fee for a traditional SONIC restaurant is $45,000, with a total investment ranging from $1,242,200 to $3,537,700 (excluding land). The license fee for a non-traditional SONIC restaurant is $22,500, with a total investment ranging from $361,900 to $978,700 (excluding land).

Type of FeeAmount
Royalty Fee5% (maximum) of gross sales for traditional and 4% of gross sales for non-traditional.
Brand Fee0.90% of gross sales.
Advertising Cooperative Fee3.25% (minimum) of gross sales for traditional and 1.85% for non-traditional.
Technology Fee/BTF Contribution0.25% of gross sales.

With an adaptable model, industry-leading technology and pent-up demand in markets nationwide, SONIC offers multi-unit franchise owners like you a path to limitless possibilities.

It has its corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City; the headquarters building features a dine-in Sonic restaurant in an adjacent building. Prior to its acquisition by Inspire Brands, its stock traded on NASDAQ with the symbol SONC. Most restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees.

Average Sonic Drive-In Owner Operator Driver yearly pay in the United States is approximately $69,794, which is 66% below the national average. Salary information comes from 22 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

  • Dunkin’
  • 7-Eleven.
  • Planet Fitness.
  • JAN-PRO.
  • Taco Bell.
  • Orangetheory Fitness.
  • Great Clips.
  • Mac Tools.

Current and historical gross margin, operating margin and net profit margin for Sonic Automotive (SAH) over the last 10 years. Profit margin can be defined as the percentage of revenue that a company retains as income after the deduction of expenses. Sonic Automotive’s net profit margin as of September 30, 2022 is 2.76%.

Sonic the Hedgehog is Sega’s flagship franchise and one of the bestselling video game franchises, selling over 140 million units by 2016 and grossing over $6 billion as of 2020. Series sales and free-to-play mobile game downloads totaled 1.5 billion as of 2022.

Traditional Sonic Drive-In. A Traditional Free-Standing Restaurant is a Sonic Drive-In located on a lot size ranging between 24,000 to 34,000 square feet and suitable for constructing a 1,150 to 1,500 square-foot Sonic Restaurant building with canopies for 8 to 24 drive-in stalls, a drive-thru lane, and patio seating.

How many franchise locations do they have? As of the 2020 Franchise Disclosure Document, there are 3329 franchised Sonic Drive-In locations in the USA.

The corporation evolved from the Top Hat Drive-In (later Sonic) in Shawnee, Oklahoma, a restaurant founded in 1953 by Troy Smith. After three failed restaurant ventures, Smith opened the Top Hat, an abandoned root beer stand, to serve hamburgers and hot dogs cooked to order.

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