Dear SONIC, You Asked for My Opinion, So Here It Is

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Dear SONIC,

You sent me an email today asking me to join your SONIC Insight Council. Here’s the email you sent me:

sonic

I thought, OK, I’d be glad to share my opinion with SONIC. So, I clicked the link and this is what I got:

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And this perfectly illustrates my opinion of the SONIC in Bryan, Ohio.

In 1994, my family and I moved to San Antonio, Texas. This was where we first ate at a SONIC. We quickly grew to love eating at SONIC and were thrilled when one was opened in Bryan, Ohio, five miles from our home. My sons can still remember how excited I was when I learned that a SONIC was coming to Podunk City, AKA Bryan, Ohio!

I still remember how crowded the Bryan store parking lot was as people tried SONIC food for the first time. Today, the store is pretty much a vacant parking lot. Part of the reason for this is your unwillingness to build dining rooms at stores in the north. We have winter here, and most of us are unwilling to sit in a parking lot with our car motor running so we can eat lunch. Add inside seating and I think it will improve customer numbers.

As customers and sales have dwindled, the store has developed some bad habits. For example, one night we wanted to get milkshakes, so we drove to Bryan only to find out that there were no milkshakes available at SONIC because the store ran out of milk. At the time, I said to my wife, are you fucking kidding me?  There’s a Walmart and a Chief grocery store a few thousand feet away. Can’t they go buy milk? Evidently not. We bought nothing and went to Dairy Queen.

I love SONIC onion rings. At first, the onion rings were deliciously awesome, but over time, as the store settled into lower volume sales, they tried to improve their food cost by not changing the fry oil at the proper time. Because of this, the onion rings had an off taste, ruining the once awesome flavor of the best onion rings in town. Having managed restaurants for several fast food chains, I can taste (and smell) old fry oil from a mile away.

Over the years, we’ve had smashed hamburgers, milk shakes not completely mixed, no whipped cream, no maraschino cherry, no straws or napkins, and credit card fraud. Yes, credit card fraud; a problem that necessitated me calling the SONIC corporate office so I could get the problem resolved. And twice we’ve been given food that belonged to someone else, only discovering this once we arrived home.

There was a day when the Gerencser family loved eating at SONIC. Not anymore. The management and staff at the Bryan SONIC are polite and helpful people. Generally, we are served promptly and every time I’ve called the manager they have taken care of us. However, after a while I got tired of calling and we stopped eating at the local SONIC.

I am a registered SONIC customer. I even get text messages from SONIC urging me to eat or drink this or that food. But, SONIC never comes to mind these days when I ask, where do you want to eat?  So let me leave you with this graphic:

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Maybe we’ll be back if you give us a reason to do so. We remember the days when SONIC was the first name on our lips when I asked, where do you want to eat tonight?

We are not hard to please. Good customer service and properly prepared food  will win us over. The ball is in your court, SONIC. If you want us back, you know where we live.

The Gerencser family

PS. If you are going to send me email with a link in it that you want me to click, it’d be nice if clicking the link didn’t return a 404 response, page not found. Everyone makes mistakes, but this is one mistake that should NEVER be made. Click the link to make sure it works before you send it  out via an email broadcast to thousands of customers.  Two seconds…and no unhappy customers.

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19 Comments

  1. Becky Wiren

    Bruce, how about posting this to Sonic’s FB page? We used to go until we got blizzards that tasted metallic. And the response at Sonic was to shrug because they didn’t know why.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for the suggestion. I did post it to their page.

      Reply
      1. Becky Wiren

        Perfect. Because after I read it I thought they should see it.

        Reply
  2. Steve

    Jesus dude, I’m sitting here starving after getting off work & you’re writing about onion rings!!!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Sorry about that 🙂

      Reply
  3. Troy

    Reminds me a little bit about McDonalds CEO getting the axe and some of the changes they promised, like a healthy bun or some nonsense. If I was running the show I’d make sure that the food is freshly made. During peak times is makes sense to produce a lot of popular items, that is fine but time stamp them so both the management and the customer knows when it was made and don’t serve old food. I can get leftovers at home, and old food really is a turn off I’ll probably n-e-v-e-r go back. The other issue is stuff missing from the order. A lot of this is from the fact that your order is done over a microphone and there isn’t much that can be done with that, but I’ve had stuff not included in the bags. I’d weigh the bags before they go to the customer, if they are underweight do a brief investigation to find out what is missing. Fast food joints think they need to rev up their menu, but they need to start with making sure their stores aren’t annoying customers with old food and messed up orders.

    Reply
    1. Becky Wiren

      I worked at the Bryan McDonalds nearly 20 years ago when my kids were little. Even then there was a rule that sandwiches must be thrown away after about 10 minutes sitting in the warmer. As to the wrong items being put in, that is a speed issue. All a worker has to do is check the items they are putting in with the ticket. BUT…too many of the young people and even older people working there, don’t feel any pride in their work. Consequently, people get sloppy etc.

      No matter what job I worked I considered it important to do well. But there are discouraged people out there, working a low wage job that isn’t paying enough. Plus, with the low wages there is a big employee turnover.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        I managed restaurants for Arthur Treacher’s and Charley’s Steakery. I also worked for Long John Silver’s as part of a new store opening team. I also helped a friend open a restaurant and I worked as a grill cook. And I also worked at Bob Everhart’s Dairy Freeze in Bryan. $1 an hour, no overtime. I remember working 50 hours one week and my gross pay was $50. Ah, the good times. If I could choose ONE job I would most love to do it would be manage/own a restaurant. I really enjoyed the work.

        Reply
        1. Becky Wiren

          I enjoy working for and with people. I think I prefer retail to restaurants, simply because the pace is down a notch. (Except for Black Friday which is INSANE.) After all, when people are hungry they want food NOW. But I enjoyed my little stint at McDs.

          Reply
          1. Troy

            That’s just it, I don’t mind waiting a bit for fast food. Especially when you go in off peak hours, there is no wait in line and I expect to wait for it to be fresh.

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            I don’t mind waiting either. If I have to wait five minutes more to get hot, fresh, properly prepared food, I am quite willing to do so.

          3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Jobs in Bryan:

            Bryan Nursing Home
            Ely Furniture
            Bob Everhart’s Dairy Freeze
            Myer Marathon
            Everhart’s Restaurant
            Foodland
            ARO
            General Tire

            All these businesses were either later bought out or went out of business.

    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      McDonald’s uses steamers which is not a big deal until food is left in the steamer way too long.

      I can spot/taste old food, bad cooking practices a mile away. Too much time in the restaurant business. Just like coffee drinkers know right away if the coffee pot has been sitting on the burner for 4 hours.

      I have cold food and I hate french fries that I KNOW have been thrown in a fryer to recook them. Besides ruining the fry, they are introducing salt into the oil which harms the oil.

      Most things can be fixed by finding managers and workers who give a shit. A while back we went through the drive thru at McDonald’s in Bryan and they messed up our order. Polly took the order back in and the manager on duty treated her like she was a criminal. Subtly accused her of trying to get free food, etc. When she returned to the car…well let’s just say I’ve never seen her this mad before. I wrote an email to the franchise’s office…they promptly responded, comped us some food and made sure that they would address things at store level. She even asked me for my overall opinion of the store, so I gave it.

      I tend to ignore a lot of stuff. A steak that is medium instead of medium well, no big deal. Serve me cold food, or like at an Applebee’s I could tell they ran out of baked potatoes so they microwaved mine, well I am going to say something. If the waitstaff treats us well we always tip at least 20%. That said, treat us like shit and I will have a conversation with the manager on the way out. Some people, like in any profession, should not be working in the restaurant industry. They don’t have the necessary skill set, patience, or personality for the job.

      Reply
  4. Van

    My first job as a 15 yr old was at the new Sonic they opened in my hometown for $1.50 an hour (Bruce is a few years older). Overall a positive experience, even though my employment abruptly ended after about 18 months when I quit (or was fired, depending on your point of view) over not being paid for all the hours I worked.

    My consumer experience is similar to Bruce’s; in fact some years ago I began to officially boycott Sonic. Something was always incorrect. Sometimes it was in our favor (extra tots we did not order, or undercharge); sometimes it was in their favor (no fries or slight overchage). For a while it was evening out over time, but then it became almost exclusively in their favor, and more egregious. The last straw was when I ordered an item (not a combo) and the price they told me over the speaker sounded too high. I waited until the carhop came with the food to confirm the price. I told her that could not be right, and to go back in and doublecheck with the manager. She came back and said the manager’s answer was that they had recently raised their prices but had not updated their menus yet. I told her I would be completing my purchase, and left.
    Aboout once or twice a year I break my boycott for a lime slush during their 2-4 happy hour. Last time I waited 15 minutes for my slush.
    Really too bad; when done right, their food is good and they have some niche products. If you have little kids and drive a mini-van, it’s really nice to let the kids out of their car seats to roam the vehicle and eat. The ‘toys’ in their kids meals are much better than the Disney crap you get at McDonalds.

    Reply
    1. Van

      Uh oh, did we lose the ‘edit’ capability in Safari again?

      I meant to say that I told the carhop I would NOT be completing my purchase.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        It was causing problems so I had to stop using it.

        Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      We still go there from time to time; after 8 PM when shakes and drinks are half off. They have a great product line, but like most fast food companies, proper food preparation and good customer service are lacking.

      Reply
  5. Ian

    No Sonic in Alaska. I’ve always wanted to try it. When I go to the lower 48 for a visit, no one ever wants to eat there. Maybe, now, I know why. I still would like to try it.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I’d certainly try it, Ian. Every store is different.

      Reply

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