Sonic is a fast-food restaurant that specializes in providing a drive-in experience.
Although drive-ins used to be quite popular, they have fallen out of fashion.
Sonic remains one of the few fast-food restaurants that still utilizes the drive-in format.
Since Sonic is considered a fast-food restaurant, you may wonder why its prices tend to be more expensive.
Why Is Sonic So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
The average price of a burger at Sonic is around $3.89.
The price of two cheeseburgers at McDonald’s is around $2.00.
Clearly, Sonic has higher prices than standard fast-food restaurants.
A few factors like how Sonic cooks its food, its focus on sustainable sourcing, and its new restaurant renovations have increased its prices.
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
A feature that distinguishes Sonic from other fast-food restaurants is that they make their food to order.
This essentially means that Sonic makes your food exactly how you want it.
They have a list of menu items from which you can choose.
However, you can customize your order from there.
If you don’t want cheese on your burger, for example, then you can tell them to remove it.
If you want two patties on your burger instead of one, then they make it for you.
This also usually means the food is a bit fresher.
Because the restaurant isn’t exactly sure what customers are going to order, they don’t pre-cook everything.
This is different from other fast-food restaurants that might pre-cook fries and then keep them under a heat lamp.
This makes Sonic expensive because you’re receiving quality food and customized service.
That takes a bit more effort and investment on their part.
As such, they charge you more for it.
Sonic is expensive because it uses a made-to-order system of service.
2. Premium Ice Cream
Another aspect that makes Sonic expensive is its focus on premium ice cream.
One of the traditional things to do at drive-in restaurants was to order large shakes.
It was an activity that defined the 1950s.
Kids would drive to the local drive-in dining restaurant and order large shakes while malt shop music played.
To honor that tradition, Sonic also offers high-quality desserts and shakes.
In particular, it focuses on providing premium ice cream for its shakes and desserts.
Sonic also took steps to reduce harmful ingredients in its ice cream like high levels of high fructose corn syrup.
Instead, it focuses on using the very best ice cream.
That sort of investment doesn’t come without a cost, however.
Premium ice cream is certainly more expensive than lesser-quality ice cream.
Because Sonic spends more so they can offer better ice cream options, it also tends to be more expensive.
You’re essentially paying for better quality.
Sonic also partners with other brands for certain Blast flavors.
Oreo, for example, is a popular Blast flavor.
Since Oreos are made by another company, Sonic has a partnership with them.
They likely have to spend a bit of money to keep using Oreos in their desserts.
Sonic also partners with a number of other companies to bring special and recognizable flavors to its desserts.
That makes their costs higher which means they need to charge more expensive prices.
Sonic is expensive because of its premium ice cream.
3. Humane Animal Treatment Auditing
Sonic is part of the Inspire Brands company.
Inspire Brands also owns restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and Arby’s.
The company has made it clear that it wishes to lead its restaurants in a more sustainable direction.
Part of their mission is to also ensure that they’re sourcing their animal products from humane ranchers.
To comply with this mission, Sonic regularly audits the ranchers that it works with to ensure they’re treating their animals humanely.
This usually means that the animals have access to clean food and water.
They also live healthy lives and aren’t living in their waste, for example.
They’re slaughtered in a way that’s as humane as possible.
They’re not tortured.
Not all ranchers practice humane methods of raising animals for slaughter.
It tends to be more expensive to do so.
As such, those who do tend to sell their animal products at higher prices.
Since Sonic only wants to work with ranchers who practice humane raising, they have to pay those higher prices.
They’re taking on higher costs, so they’re selling their products at higher prices, too.
Sonic is expensive because of the costs associated with working with ranchers who practice humane ranching.
4. Charity Involvement
Sonic is also no stranger to charity work.
There are many national and local charities that Sonic supports.
It encourages its franchise owners to also support local charities in their hometowns if their budget allows it.
Giving to charity is something that Sonic takes seriously.
It wants to improve the communities that support the restaurant.
However, in order to reach those charity goals, it usually means Sonic has to make a certain amount of money.
They still need enough revenue to pay employees and invest back into the brand first, after all.
To ensure they’re able to make good on their charity goals, they need to ensure that their prices are high enough that they can make the revenue they need while also earning enough money to support the charities they’re involved with.
Some customers also don’t mind paying higher prices since they know that some of their money is helping fund a great cause.
It gives them a chance to support their local communities, too.
Sonic has expensive prices because it has a strong focus on charity.
5. Renovation Costs
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonic realized something.
Their restaurants were much larger than they needed to be.
The company has started to renovate its Sonic restaurants.
They’re looking to make smaller, more efficient restaurants that don’t take up quite as much space.
The problem with renovating a chain is that it takes a lot of money.
Even if the company renovates stores over a few years, they’re still spending a lot of money on renovations.
To cover the cost of renovations, Sonic might have to increase prices for a while.
It ensures that the company has the funds it needs to cover expected and unexpected costs.
Some Sonic restaurants are also giving their drive-in parking spots a renovation, too.
Even a simple facelift can make the restaurant look brand new.
A new look is typically appealing to customers.
Not everyone wants to eat at a restaurant if the building looks old and unloved.
It suggests that the food isn’t going to be great.
However, those changes cost money.
To offset their costs, Sonic charges high prices for its food.
Sonic is expensive because it’s undergoing several renovations on its restaurants across the country.
6. Cage-Free Eggs
While humane slaughter is one aspect that Sonic is focusing on, they’re also focusing on acquiring cage-free eggs.
Sonic has its share of breakfast menu items that use eggs.
Some customers have a concern over the treatment of the chickens that laid those eggs.
They don’t want to support a restaurant that supports caged chickens.
As such, Sonic has started to audit its chicken farmers.
They’re moving to partner with farmers who use cage-free chickens.
These chickens tend to be healthier and happier because they’re able to roam around.
Caged chickens live in a cage for most of their life.
They often become sick because they’re unable to get much exercise.
However, caged chickens are cheaper for a rancher to own because it means they don’t need a lot of land.
They can stack the cages right next to each other and on top of each other.
Cage-free chickens are a bit more expensive to raise because the rancher does need more land.
The chickens need to be able to roam and roost.
Since it’s a greater investment on behalf of the farmer, they end up charging higher prices for their eggs.
There’s also a perceived notion that cage-free eggs tend to be better quality.
That also adds to the price.
Sonic then pays higher prices to source those eggs.
To make their money back and earn a profit, they increase the price of menu items that use eggs.
Sonic is expensive because it uses cage-free eggs.
7. Rewards Program Costs
One of the great things about eating at Sonic is that you’re able to sign up for its rewards program for free.
It doesn’t cost you anything to become a member.
Signing up is easy.
You used to have to make an account on Sonic’s website to join a program called MySonic.
These days, all you need to do is download the Sonic app.
All of its menu items, deals, and rewards are right there in the app.
It’s the rewards, in particular, that make Sonic a bit more expensive.
One reward you can expect from the app, for example, is half off the price of a cheeseburger every Tuesday after 5 PM.
You don’t need a certain number of reward points to qualify for this deal.
As long as you order through the app, you qualify for that steep discount.
You also are sometimes able to get half off of drinks when you order online or through the app.
Clearly, Sonic offers some great deals for those who use their app.
However, this means that Sonic is also not pulling in as much money as it would if it didn’t have those deals.
While they’re likely not losing money, they’re also not making as much as they could.
To ensure that they’re still earning the kind of profit that they want to see, they have high prices.
This ensures that even if they offer discounts and great deals, Sonic is still pulling in the money it wants.
Sonic is expensive because of the frequent deals it runs.
8. Food Costs
There’s no question that food costs are also behind Sonic’s high prices.
Whether it’s a focus on using fresh food, sustainable food, or just high-quality food, Sonic has high food costs as a result.
That’s especially true during times of inflation.
When it becomes more expensive to raise animals for slaughter, then ranchers raise their prices.
Sonic then has to raise its prices because they’re also incurring more costs.
A problem with inflation is that it raises the cost of everything.
It makes everything more expensive.
It isn’t just inflation that can cause increased food costs either.
Illnesses among animals can create a shortage of meat for the restaurant.
That impacts the food industry because it means there are fewer animals to go around.
Restaurants will raise their prices accordingly.
Even something affecting feed, like drought, wildfires, or disease, will affect the cost of animal products.
If it costs more to feed their animals, then ranchers will have no choice but to raise the price of their animal products.
Sonic has to do the same to offset its own costs.
Sonic is expensive because of high food costs.
9. Diverse Menu
One of the things Sonic has a reputation for is its diverse menu.
You’ll find everything from burgers to hot dogs on their menu.
They also have several dessert options.
Sonic also serves breakfast for those who arrive early enough.
You can also choose to make your order a combo meal.
This makes Sonic expensive because it means they need to supply themselves with lots of different types of food.
It makes their food costs higher.
If they focused on just burgers, for example, then their food costs would be a bit lower.
They’d be able to just focus on sourcing meat and burger ingredients.
Sonic has a diverse menu, however, so it needs to source all sorts of different ingredients to provide that food to its customers.
That means higher costs of business.
Sonic is expensive because it offers a large and diverse menu.
10. Niche Factor
A final reason Sonic is expensive is that it is a “niche” restaurant.
Sonic is one of the few remaining drive-in restaurants in the country.
At the very least, it’s one of the few remaining chains.
Because of that, it provides an experience that few other fast-food restaurants provide.
At other fast-food restaurants, the focus is on getting your food and leaving.
At Sonic, you’re able to sit in your car, enjoy your food, then leave.
The unique use of car hops also transports you back to the 1950s.
It’s a fun experience that few other restaurants offer.
Because of that, Sonic is able to have higher prices.
You’re not just paying for the food.
You’re also paying for the experience.
Sonic is expensive because it’s a niche fast-food restaurant.
Sonic provides delicious made-to-order American cuisine.
Its prices tend to be a bit higher than other fast-food restaurants because of the experience it offers and because of the costs it takes on to provide high-quality food and service.