The SONIC Franchise Story
A rich brand heritage and tradition of innovation make for a top-rated fast food franchise opportunity
The best fast food franchise around!SONIC®, America’s drive-in, was built on a dream and a handshake.
Americans were filled with optimism when World War II ended. Small businesses began popping up across the country as veterans home from the war sought the chance to settle down and raise a family. Oklahoman Troy Smith was no exception. He wanted to make a good living for his wife and two children when his Army duty came to a close, and he jumped on the chance to buy a hamburger, hot dog and root beer stand called the Top Hat on the dusty outskirts of Shawnee, Oklahoma. His workday began at dawn on his bread truck delivery route, and then he would head to the drive-in and work all day and all night.
Troy’s humble hamburger stand took off during the era of post-war prosperity. He was soon looking for every chance he could to provide the best customer service and innovation — both of which remain SONIC core values to this day. He added parking spots, canopies and speakers so that customers could order their burgers and fries from the comfort of their cars. These state-of-the-art touches reflect the spirit of ingenuity still prevalent in the way SONIC operates today.
A car hop at our old-time fast food franchise
Americans had a love affair with their cars in the 1950s, and Troy saw the chance to create a unique business centered around the automobile’s sense of freedom, as well as people’s desires to celebrate everyday occasions with a made-to-order burger, hot fries and a cold milkshake. From first dates to birthdays, customers to this day still think of SONIC as a place to gather with family and friends to celebrate life’s occasions, both big and small.
Two Oklahomans share a dream for their drive-in
The beginnings of the best fast food franchiseTroy struck up a friendship with a bold fellow Oklahoman who had a keen sense for business. Charlie Pappe, a local entrepreneur with an outgoing personality and a drive to make things happen, was inspired by the concept of the Top Hat Drive-In when he stopped by during a trip through town. The two businessmen instantly struck up a friendship and after a couple of hours of talking shop, Charlie asked Troy about opening a second location in Woodward. This first SONIC expansion deal was sealed with a handshake, formed on a friendship and based on a shared dream of bringing drive-in restaurants to communities. Two more Oklahoma locations soon opened in nearby Enid and Stillwater.
An excerpt from the book SONIC: The History of America’s Drive-In describes the duo: “Their personalities were complementary. While Troy was by nature a deal maker, able to construct a complex solution to any task, Charlie was a hand shaker who never met a stranger. Troy was cautious, careful to count every penny while giving change. Charlie was aggressive, willing to guess at the change while he moved on to the next task. Troy was fascinated by efficiency. Charlie was a fanatic for cleanliness, known to grab the mop bucket and clean the back entrance to a kitchen while dressed in a tailor-made suit. Troy drove a high-mileage, stick-shift-Chevy. Charlie drove a fully loaded Buick Wildcat. One thing they did share was a strong bond of friendship. Armed with friendship, complementary skills and ambition, Troy and Charlie were ready to build a chain of drive-in restaurants.”