Sonic booms, but quietly
This fast-food chain is up 70% and nobody even noticed.
Fast food can be hit-or-miss. Right now, Sonic Corp. (SONC) is a hit.
The Oklahoma City drive-in chain's shares have climbed 70% since last spring, according to CNBC. And, the company reported second-quarter adjusted earnings of five cents per share on revenue of $111.1 million Monday.
Sonic's good news comes at a time when McDonald's (MCD) reported zero U.S. sales growth, Wendy's (WEN) seems stuck in neutral, and Yum Brands (YUM), mostly due to the food scare in China, has garnered short attention by some investors.
William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia said earnings were slightly ahead of her forecast, causing her to reaffirm a "market perform" rating.
Sterne Agee, on the other hand, downgraded Sonic from "buy" to "neutral" in a report released Friday.
Sonic Corp. executives are not sitting still. The company is producing a new series of their popular "Two Guys" television ads and working on a loyalty program according to Nation's Restaurant News. The chain is looking to boost traffic and maintain profit margins in a "strike while the iron is hot" strategy that may be one of the reasons the company continues to do well.
Sonic's Chairman and Chief Executive Clifford Hudson, told Nation's Restaurant News that beginning this past January, approximately 70% of the company's media dollars have been invested in national cable. The rest, according to Hudson, has gone into local television and other advertising mediums.
Focusing on the "Two Guys" as brand-builders has been part of Sonic's strategy since February 2012, when the company re-introduced the well-known duo to the public. The challenge now, Hudson says, is to keep the two comical spokesmen fresh and relevant.
In addition to focused advertising, executives who spoke with analysts Monday indicated they are working on a customer loyalty program to help drive traffic for the brand. Customer loyalty programs are rare in fast food, but Sonic believes they have a high number of regular customers who deserve to be rewarded for their allegiance.
And, of course, the additional traffic generated by the proposed program will not hurt the company's bottom line.
The company is also working on increasing individual store profitability. A new, smaller building prototype is part of that strategy and one that reduces non-land costs by 15% to 20%, according to Stephen C. Vaughn, the company's chief financial officer.
As of Feb. 28, Sonic had 3,526 drive-in units in 43 states. Sonic shares closed Tuesday at $12.87, up $1.14 or almost 10% on the day. They are up slightly Wednesday in afternoon trading.
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Sonic has the most amazing onion rings! As a former manager (like in my teens) I remember they would soak their freshly sliced onions in the ice cream milk. Then they would bread then the next day. I hope they still do it that way, 'cause they are still yummy!
Yeah, when I lived in Plano TX, Sonic's food is off the chain.
The varity of their menu is very appealing.
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Consumers are very status conscious in Asia, Africa and other emerging-market areas. This is especially true in China.
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