When it comes to speed and convenience, none of the major fast food chains have a clear advantage. In general, you roll up to an ordering station, pay, and get your food within a few minutes. If there's lines, chances are it'll take even longer.
Sonic Drive-In is looking to shake up that aspect of the fast food game with their new app, which has the potential to beat out everybody else on swiftness and efficiency. The new tech allows Sonic to cook, prep, and deliver several meals at once, meaning that convenience isn't just for who gets in the drive-thru line first.
While the new programming is still undergoing testing, Foodbeast recently had the opportunity to try the revamped app. It features a pay-ahead system that can serve multiple customers at a single drive-in simultaneously. You order and pay for your food, then select a pick-up time at a nearby Sonic location of your choosing. Once there, you simply enter the stall number you've parked at, and the app connects to that stall and the entire restaurant, letting the kitchen team know you've arrived. They'll then finish any necessary prep and bring out your food piping hot.
When we tested the app out, the order came out about a minute after we plugged in what stall we had arrived at. This was in a similar time frame to CEO Cliff Hudson's trial of the new system at a test location. He told Foodbeast that once he had parked, the food was out to his stall in "no more than 45 seconds."
The key to Sonic's upgraded speed, according to Hudson, is the chain's new point-of-sales system. Whereas most fast food establishments are built on a sequential ordering system, Sonic's new program is quantum-based. This means that the majority of QSR chains can only take on meals in the order they are put into the system, but a single Sonic location can handle multiple advance orders from the app at once.
For example, if 10 cars that have pre-ordered food on the app arrive concurrently, the restaurant can get their meals out to all of them in swift fashion. It beats having to wait behind a few other cars before getting the chance to order your food. It's even quicker than current mobile pickup order models, where only one parking spot (maybe two) is available at a time.
Hudson feels that this new technology could potentially change the definition of convenience. He told Foodbeast that the "competition will have a real hard time mimicking" what Sonic has done with this app, which delivers on speed, efficiency, and accuracy.
The new Sonic app is currently undergoing testing in Louisiana and Oklahoma to work out any kinks before Sonic begins to roll it out to more markets sometime in April or May. There's no specific timetable yet as to when it will expand nationwide.