SONIC Drive-In (NASDAQ: SONC), the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants, today announced the hiring of Steve Bailey and Craig Sherwood as senior directors of franchise sales. Bailey and Sherwood will work with the existing franchise sales team to further accelerate the expansion momentum of the SONIC brand, bringing business opportunities to existing and new markets nationwide. Following early 2014 announcements of significant development agreements on both the West and East Coasts, this is another step toward a more widespread footprint for the well-known brand.
“Our growth targets are ambitious, but we are building our franchise sales team with the right people to help us meet demand as we push boundaries and make waves in the next few years,” said Bob Franke, senior vice president of franchise sales and international development for Sonic. “Though we are a national brand with over 3,500 drive-in locations, there are still significant franchise opportunities, particularly in the northern and coastal states. Steve, Craig and the entire development team are focused on making SONIC accessible to fans throughout the country, offering a differentiated franchise concept to serious partners in markets large and small.”
Bailey will lead franchise development for 16 central U.S. states from Minnesota to Florida. His first focus at SONIC will be strong franchise development in the Atlanta market. There are currently 48 SONIC Drive-Ins in the Atlanta area, and Bailey plans to expand this footprint quickly. Bailey’s other priorities will be expanding the already significant SONIC footprint in southern states while achieving demonstrable growth in the northern states by leveraging our new indoor dining prototypes suited for colder weather. The new building still offers multiple drive-in stalls consistent with SONIC’s heritage, but now boasts an enclosed dining space for guests to keep warm while enjoying their SONIC favorites.
“It’s not said enough, but SONIC is a big contender in the QSR space,” said Bailey. “This time-tested brand has strong customer awareness from a national marketing campaign, unique menu offerings and attractive franchise opportunities. It’s an exciting time for SONIC, and I look forward to driving the accelerated growth we see in these markets.”
Steve Bailey is a veteran of the QSR industry, joining SONIC most recently from Einstein Bros Bagels. Previously, Bailey held roles with Checkers Drive-In and Dairy Queen, beginning his career in operations at Pizza Hut.
Sherwood will lead franchise development for 16 Western U.S. states from Texas to Washington, focusing on states with significant growth opportunity. He will focus on signing new franchise agreements with partners varying in size throughout his region, with an emphasis in California. The state currently has 60 drive-in locations, but plans are in the works to reach a total of 300 locations by 2020. In addition, Sherwood will be focusing on an airport expansion initiative, bringing SONIC to travelers in busy airports throughout the country.
“SONIC can definitely strike gold in California,” said Sherwood. “The concept is distinctive and well-known nationwide, offering potential franchisees a great avenue to become a restaurateur or expand their portfolio of brands. Having worked with a variety of fast-casual and QSR concepts, I have no doubt that SONIC is primed for serious growth.”
Craig Sherwood comes to SONIC with extensive operational and development experience from over 20 years in the restaurant industry. Sherwood was most recently vice president of franchise development at Fazoli’s. Prior to Fazoli’s, Sherwood led franchise development at Corner Bakery Cafe, producing record-setting growth for the brand, and was instrumental in leading non-traditional development for Yum! Brands.
SONIC’s one-of-a-kind menu, friendly Carhops and over one million drink combinations make it among the most differentiated concepts in the restaurant industry. For years SONIC has been a regional powerhouse, and current national expansion has created franchise opportunities nationwide.