By Darrell Mak
The drive-in restaurant, a nostalgic icon from the 1950s and 60s, is making a comeback in Anne Arundel County with the planned opening of a Sonic Restaurant in Edgewater, the first in the county. Business partners Sean Miller, Dave Crocetti, Eric Leatherman and Tim Sutton, all of whom grew up in Pasadena, Severna Park or Millersville, hope to break ground soon on the new location next to the Walgreens drug store on Route 2 in Edgewater.
Initially, Miller and Crocetti explored and evaluated several different business concepts before deciding on Sonic. We wanted to do something different, recalled Miller. The menu has lots to choose from and we loved the drink and dessert selection, the product mix, and the cult-like following.
Miller said while some questioned whether the drive-in concept was better suited for a warmer climate, he believed the concept would work well here. Last August, the duo opened their first Sonic restaurant in Randallstown.
When we opened, cars were lined up a mile long, recalled Miller. Randallstown has been a huge success.
In considering the Edgewater location, Miller said the partners studied a combination of demographics and traffic counts. Most people complain about the traffic there. We actually like the traffic, he said. South County is one of the few areas in the county that is still growing. It has the demographics to be a success, he assured.
The Randallstown and Edgewater locations are part of a plan the business partners developed to open nine new Sonic restaurants in the area over the next five years. At first, Miller was eagerly anticipating opening two or three restaurants per year, but he has since slowed the pace down to ensure everything is set up correctly.
We are growing smartly, rather than rapidly, explained Miller. We are taking our time to train everyone so customer service is impeccable.
Miller and Crocetti brought in Leatherman and Sutton as partners to help manage the operations of all the restaurants, and they have done fabulously well. Eric and Tim have proven they understand the model, affirmed Miller.
Decades ago the foursome worked together at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Marley Station, where they initially met. Its four friends getting together and building a business, described Miller. Its an exciting time for us and pretty cool to be building a company from scratch, he added.
Sonic Drive-In is a chain of fast-food restaurants that started as a hamburger and root beer stand in 1953 in Shawnee, OK. Today, the chain has over 3,500 drive-ins throughout the country. As opposed to a typical fast-food drive thru window, something already very prevalent in this area, Sonic offers drive-ins where customers park in stalls, place their orders through an intercom, and get their food delivered to the car by a roller-skating wait staff. Diners can then eat in their cars while listening to music coming through the intercom or take their food to go.
The new Edgewater Sonic will have 22 stalls where cars can park. It also will have a traditional drive-through lane and some seating tables for outdoor dining.
The young crowd thinks this is a new concept, while it brings back fond memories with the older folks, summarized Miller. Sonic appeals to the big population.
For more than 50 years, Sonic Corporation has built a dominant position in the drive-in restaurant business and today is the largest chain of drive-in restaurants in America. Its menu items include burgers, dogs, chicken, kids meals, coffee, breakfast, and desserts. Miller said the variety of drinks offered is mind boggling.
The drink menu has a massive 398,929 different combinations, he said. We do half-price happy-hour drinks from 2:00pm to 4:00pm every day as well.
Miller said Sonic prices will be lower than its competitors, which will be advantageous in that area of Edgewater where numerous fast-food restaurants abound.
Sonic offers competitively priced items but with superior products, described Miller. We might be a few cents cheaper than McDonalds, but what we stress is a differentiated product with a differentiated experience along with great customer service.