Ready, set, Sonic

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

Contrary to belief, Sonic Drive-In didn’t do away with the skating carhops, the hallmark of a restaurant that has captured its own niche among America’s fast food chains.

“We encourage those who can skate to skate,” said Mike Creel, owner of Greenville’s own Sonic Drive-In, which will open to customers next week. “We buy the skates for them, pay them a little bit more per hour and, believe it or not, they make more tips.”

Roller-skating just isn’t as popular as it once was, said Creel, one reason for the lack of skaters at the nation’s most popular drive-in restaurant.

And why the popularity?

“I think Sonic captures the nostalgia for the drive-in,” said Creel, a Louisiana native, referencing a time when America’s small towns were void of fast food franchises and muscle cars carrying hungry teenagers prowled the streets. Likely the local drive-in restaurant also served as the local hangout.

Plus, Sonic’s multitude of menu options keeps pulling in the crowds, he said.

“We’ve got variety in our menu and it is all day – breakfast, lunch and dinner anytime you want it,” said Creel.

Creel and partner Dan Perry have opened one other Sonic in Alabama, in Chelsea just two months ago.

He expects an even bigger opening in Greenville.

“I think it’s going to be stronger, especially considering McDonald’s is closed,” he said. “This is a great town, a great location and we’re looking forward to being a part of this community.”

Creel admitted he and his business partner were close to pulling out of Greenville earlier this year. The location of an outdoor advertising sign on the land almost barred the door for the city’s newest fast food franchise.

Creel applauded Mayor Dexter McLendon and city officials for helping remove that barrier.

“The Mayor was a big help,” he said. “We were able to clear that hurdle and get started to work.”

Creel said Greenville staff members are currently training at Sonic Drive-In locations in Andalusia, Jackson, Millbrook, Thomasville and Chelsea in preparations for next week’s opening.

Pamela “Patti” Pettis will serve as General Manager for the Greenville Sonic, moving from Louisiana with her husband and two children.

“Having someone with Patti’s experience will really help us in getting started,” said Creel.

Creel said the restaurant is still accepting employment applications. Interested persons can pick up the necessary forms at the Sonic Drive-In location in Greenville on Willow Lane.