Carhops at your service

Kristen Kotz

SONIC opens restaurant in Streetsboro

ONIC offers a unique, retro style of ordering food. Customers have the option to park their car and have food brought to them via skating servers. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Most people wouldn’t imagine workers skating while on the job, but at SONIC drive-in restaurants, some employees assist customers while on Rollerblades or roller skates.

This is just one of the things that make a SONIC drive-in different from other fast food restaurants, said Kerry Dechant, owner of the Streetsboro SONIC franchise.

The new restaurant, which is the first SONIC in Northeast Ohio, opened Sept. 15. SONIC has over 3,300 locations across the country, according to its corporate Web site.

“There’s nothing else like it,” Dechant said. “If you’ve experienced it, you know it.”

SONIC opened its first restaurant in 1953 in Shawnee, Okla., and was called Top Hat Drive-In. Its name was changed to SONIC in 1959.

The restaurant offers drive-in, drive-thru and patio service for customers. Guests who opt for the drive-in method pull into one of 26 designated parking spaces equipped with a SONIC menu and an intercom. Customers press the red button on the menu when they are ready to place their order. A SONIC employee greets the customer through the intercom and takes his or her order. Soon after, one of SONIC’s personal carhops, often seen skating around, delivers the food right to the customer’s car.

“It’s old-fashioned,” Jeff Sloan, senior communications major, said of the carhop service. “I think it’s cool.”

SONIC carhops are only allowed to roller skate when the pavement is dry and must demonstrate they are “proficient” at skating before being allowed to do so on the job, Dechant said. Carhops can also choose whether they want to use Rollerblades or roller skates.

Dechant said he worked at a SONIC in his hometown of Hays, Kan., when he was a teenager in the 1970s and had wanted to own his own SONIC since then.

He contacted the company in 1996 about opening a franchise in the Streetsboro area, but SONIC did not have distribution setup for the Ohio area at the time. In 2006, Dechant got a call from SONIC asking him if he still wanted to open a franchise, and he then made plans to open 11 locations in Northeast Ohio.

“You bring (SONIC) to a new market, and it seems like it’s new, but it’s actually half a century old,” Dechant said. “There are not too many opportunities like that.”

In addition to drive-in service, Sonic also has 168,000 drink combinations guests can choose from. Diners can have one of SONIC’s Slushes, or they can try a flavored limeade. It comes in several flavors, including cherry, apple and strawberry. Dechant said cherry limeade is SONIC’s signature drink. Guests can also add flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and lime to any drink they choose.

“You don’t want to come to SONIC and have a Diet Coke,” Dechant said. “We make drinks special for you.”

While SONIC does offer the traditional fast food fare of hamburgers and French fries, some customers, like Stephanie Smith, senior double major in human movement and exercise physiology, enjoy the more unique items SONIC has. Smith said she is especially fond of SONIC’s FRITOS Chili Cheese Wrap.

“Where else do you get chips in a burrito?” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Contact all reporter Kristen Kotz at [email protected].