From the largest cities to the smallest 'don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it' cities in Oklahoma, there's a Sonic Drive-In to be found. When you find yourself in need of a pick-me-up and you're craving something crunchy, cheesy, comforting, or even something frozen, why not do as Oklahomans do and drive-in?
The locations of Sonic Drive-Ins are designed to serve every 14,000 people, which makes Why Not Oklahoma supersonic convenient. Forty years in the making, Oklahoma's Sonic Drive-In has been and still is well-known for its drive-in innovation, carhop service, and quick craving gratification.
From Small Town Oklahoma to America's Favorite Drive-In
Originating in Shawnee, OK, World War II veteran Troy Smith purchased five acres, which consisted of a log cabin, and a root beer stand. The stand, called 'Top Hat,' sold foot-long coneys, hamburgers, chili pies, fountain soda favorites, and shakes-malts and Frosties (much like today's menu). Customers would park, walk up to the stand, and order food. Once served, they would return to their cars to eat.
After ordering food at a drive-in with a speaker ordering system in 1953, Troy Smith returned home and diligently worked to improve this audiovisual ordering process. A considerable advantage came at a particularly opportune time. The postwar boom increased car purchases and made the public more mobile. Thus, Top Hat and other drive-in restaurants took full advantage and popularized the concept of fast food. Troy quickly added covered parking spaces with homemade speakers so that his customers could remain in their vehicles.
Entrepreneurship to 'Speed of Sound' Fast Food
As an innovative entrepreneur, Troy Smith pulled together a team of radio, television, and jukebox experts, and together, they drove this intercom system to become one of America's favorite ways to order food. Domineering this innovative system by including a carhop (a hired employee wearing roller skates racing to and from customer vehicles carrying food), they popularized this supersonic conception and originality. In addition to that, he pioneered angled and covered parking, allowing customers protection from the weather.
Charlie Pappe, a soon-to-be restaurant entrepreneur, quickly became impressed with Troy Smith. They created a partnership. However, they discovered that the name 'Top Hat' had already been copyrighted. Luck surprised them and threw them an alternative; they found the word "sonic." Hence, the name change, Sonic, and their first slogan, "Service with the Speed of Sound."
Sonic Drive-Ins soon expanded to other states such as Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas. With growth came their claim to fame as one of the top five favorite hamburgers in the region. They begin their infamous tradition of giving their customers mints to remind them that they are "worth a mint." Another of Sonic's best-selling products is their cherry limeades, pour all the limeade sales together, and more than 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools would be filled. When life throws you limes, make limeades!
A "Drive-In" of Supersonic Achievements
In 2022, there are 3,546 Sonic Drive-Ins located in the United States, and in our beloved state of Oklahoma, there are approximately 270. Make your road trip supersonic with a drive-in pit-stop at your nearest Sonic Drive-In. You deserve to have a blast!
- 1959 – Sonic Drive-In introduces its 'Sonic' name
- 1974 – Over 275 Sonic Drive-Ins were in full operation
- 1975 – Sonic operated in 13 U.S. states
- 1977 – The first Sonic commercial appeared on TV
- 1987 – Teen idol Frankie Avalon blasted a boost of sales with their most successful ad campaign
- 1997 – The Wacky Pack kid's meal was created
- 2009 – Limeades for Learning donates over $20 million to fund Oklahoma teacher projects
- 2009 – Oct. 26, 2009, the iconic Troy Smith was laid to rest