Management Pratices at Sonic Corp
In 1953 Sonic Corporation was founded by Tony Smith in Shawnee, Oklahoma under a different name of the Top Hat. Tony Smith started the company as a drive-in restaurant featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, and french-fried onion rings. In the mid-50s Smith was asked by Charles Pappe for assistance in establishing a similar restaurant in a rural town also located in Oklahoma. This was the beginning of a partnership between the two men .
In 1991 Sonic Corporation was the fifth largest chain in the fast-food industry, servicing in the hamburger segment, behind McDonald’s, Burger King , Hardee’s, and Wendy’s. Sonic has and is still carrying the tradition of being a high-quality franchise-based organization in the Sunbelt states. The following case will be broke down into five different stages beginning with early strategies,
problems, new strategies, a ratio analysis, and a recommendation.
UNDER TONY SMITH
Tony Smith introduced the Top Hat as a drive-in restaurant that reduced start up cost by not having eat-in space. This new restaurant featured drive-in stalls for automobiles, that were equipped with a two-way intercom enabling customers to order as soon as they drove in, opposed to conventional practices of waiting for a carhop to take an order. Delivery of the fresh fast-quality products was do to the unique design of the kitchen, and the use of carhops.
Sonic Corporation preferred to do things as easy as possible and avoid sophistication. Another strategy Smith implemented was a collection of franchise royalties. This was done in a way such that Sonic franchise holders were required to purchase printed bags at an additional fee that Smith arranged through a paper-goods supplier.
Pyramid-type selling arrangements were formed by franchisees in money making efforts by starting other franchises through friends. This lead to original store managers having a percentage of their own store earnings and a portion of the new operation of the recruited friend manager. This idea further developed to multi-ownership of almost all Sonic operations as store managers were also part owners. This concept of pyramid-type selling carried Sonic forward with rapid growth.
In the later-70’s almost one new Sonic store opened per day. The rapid expansion of Sonic was growing at an uncontrollable rate. With such rapid growth some stores failed. In these cases Sonic assumed control over failed franchise units, driving the number of company owned restaurants from 3 in 1974 to 149 in 1979. This rapid expansion of Sonic was a short lived frenzy which resulted in numerous failures do to lack of planning, market analysis, and requirements for unit managers. The company was forced to operate the failed franchise as company units in most cases, to protect the franchise name and reputation. A loss was posted in 1980 as Sonic began closing some operations.
Reason’s for the closings were that the board tighten its control which created an operation that left no services being provided to the franchise holders, including no advertising cooperation’s, no management training services, and no accounting services. In 1983 Smith decided to go outside the companies parameters and appointed a professional manager that had no ties to Sonic Corporation in any shape, form, or know how.
Stephen Lynn was introduced to Sonic Corporation as president and chief executive officer. The new comer, Lynn, was granted the decision to form his own management team. This team was formed and implemented by mid 1984. By implementing his own management team Lynn could begin to take problems head on, after ridding the board members and franchise holders that had significant conflicting interests that clouded the better judgement of Sonic.
TURNING IT AROUND
In an attempt to turn the organization around, Lynn and his newly formed management team set forth on a strategy that had three key factors: “(1) attack problems concerning franchise attitude and Sonic’s image; (2) improve purchasing; and (3) improve communications.” Marketing was the key to nipping the attitude problem in the butt. To be successful three main issues had to be encountered: “(1) the franchise owners and corporate owners had to buy-in to it; (2) the plan had to be simple enough to be executed; and (3) it had to provide visible evidence of working by improving profit for the owners.”