Minot residents will be getting a blast from the past next year when a new drive-in restaurant opens.
Sonic, a national restaurant chain as famous for its style of service as it is for its food, will be opening its first location in North Dakota in the spring of 2013. The restaurant will be located at 1601-35th Ave. SW in Minot, right across 16th Street Southwest from the Minot YMCA and next to La Quinta Inn & Suites.
Reza Sakaki, vice president of RZA Ventures LLC, the ownership group of Sonic, said their franchise is unique in the quick-service food industry, not only in what they offer, but how they offer it.
"Sonic is a very unique quick-service restaurant. It's very different than your average fast food. First of all our menu, we have a bigger menu compared to some other fast-foods," Sakaki said. "We have burgers, we have hot dogs, we have melts, we have all different kinds of shakes. We actually have close to 400,000 different flavored combinations you can order your drinks with at Sonic."
Officially, Sonic claims 398,929 different drink combinations. Sakaki said their hot dogs are very popular, including the Chicago- and New York-style hot dogs, All American hot dogs and chili cheese coneys.
"Also we have great burgers at Sonic," Sakaki said. "It's made to order. We don't hold anything, we just basically make everything to order."
In addition to burgers and dogs, Sonic also offers breakfast options like Toasters, which are breakfast sandwiches on thick Texas toast, and breakfast burritos. There are also a variety of ice cream treats such as Blasts, which mix candy in with ice cream, sundaes, hand-spun shakes and CreamSlushes.
Perhaps even more unique than the massive menu at Sonic is the style it serves the food in. Sonic has a distinct drive-in dining experience that comes straight out of the 1950s. There are 18 stalls for cars to pull into, which allows customers to take their time and look over all the options on the menu. When everyone in the car is ready to order, a button on the menu board is pressed and the order can be placed. Once the order is ready, a skating carhop delivers it to the car and the customers can either eat right there or drive away and eat somewhere else.
"One thing we strive for operationally is to make every visit to Sonic a fun experience rather than just getting something to eat," Sakaki said.
There is also a drive-thru option like more typical fast-food restaurants have. In addition, the Minot Sonic will also offer indoor seating, which isn't very common in Sonic restaurants.
"Traditionally Sonic doesn't have inside seating in the ones down South, but because of the climate in North Dakota we decided to add inside seating," Sakaki said. "There's room for about 50 to 60 people to sit inside and enjoy their meal, just to make sure during the cold months we have some other alternative for our guests."
In typical Sonic fashion, Sakaki said they will be adding a twist to the indoor seating during the summer months. There will be garage doors around the dining room that can be closed in the winter to provide a warm interior and then opened in the summer to basically turn the dining room into a patio.
Some site work has already been done at the restaurant location and Sakaki said they hope to start construction in the next few weeks, weather permitting. With some luck and good weather, construction should take 80 to 90 days, allowing Sonic to open early in the spring.
Sakaki said they are looking to hire about 80 crew members for the new restaurant. Two managers have already been hired, and two more management positions have yet to be filled.
Finding enough good employees to run the restaurant is one of Sonic's biggest challenges, according to Sakaki. He noted every business is western North Dakota is facing the same issue, but he believes Sonic offers enough benefits such as a great training program and room for career advancement to attract enough employees.
He said Minot will have the first of many Sonics planned for North Dakota. In the next five to seven years, Sakaki said they would like a Sonic in every major city in the state, including Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Williston and Dickinson. In addition, they would also like to expand to smaller communities wherever possible.
Sonic had actually planned to open in Fargo first, but Sakaki said the economic boom Minot was experiencing changed their plans.
"We decided that Minot is the place to be," Sakaki said. "We liked the environment in Minot, and we think for quite a few years to come Minot will be a great market to be in."
Although Minot will be the first North Dakota market for Sonic, it won't be the first cold-weather location. Sakaki said there are also Sonics in places such as Chicago, South Dakota and New York. And while Sonic started out in warm-weather locations, the cold-weather restaurants have proven they can be just as popular, and even more so in some cases.
"There is one store in Babylon, New York, that has the highest sales in the Sonic system," Sakaki said.
While some cold-weather stores do have the indoor dining room and others don't, he said the ones that do have indoor seating are definitely doing much better. This is one of the reasons Minot's Sonic will also have indoor dining.
Although there are big challenges for Sonic in Minot, namely finding employees, Sakaki also sees big opportunities in the Magic City, making it a great first location for North Dakota.
"We think we are going to double the sales average of Sonic's average restaurant in Minot," he said.