After being closed for six weeks for a much-needed renovation, the Plaquemine Sonic Drive-In has a fresh new look and its new owners also gave the fast food restaurant a new attitude.
Jon-Austin Tucker and his father Larry Tucker bought the Sonic location about two months ago and almost immediately started working on turning the restaurant around.
“About 10 years ago, it was bringing in over $175,000 a month and in June of this year, sales had dropped to $55,000,” Jon-Austin, the managing partner of the Belleview Road Sonic said. “So in 10 years – even with the price of burgers going up – revenue had gone down that much.”
Many people would see that drop in sales as a bad omen but the Tuckers saw an opportunity.
“We knew the potential was there,” Tucker said. “It has a great customer base with a high school across the highway and in front of a Walmart.”
“We figured if we dressed it up on the outside, did some new stuff on the inside and hired the right people, it could be flipped back to the Sonic it was 10 years ago.”
If anyone could turn the old Sonic around, it would be the Tuckers. While the Plaquemine location is Jon-Austin’s first foray in the restaurant business, Larry has been at it for 42 years and owns 21 stores from LaPlace to Alexandria and “that includes the majority of the Baton Rouge stores,” Jon-Austin said.
“So far, this being our first week, we’re right on track,” he continued.
As long as the elder Tucker has been an owner of a Sonic, longer than Jon-Austin has been alive, the son has only this year joined his dad in the Sonic business.
It was the background of the Plaquemine location and its potential that drew Tucker to the restaurant industry. He said the store had history with his family – his father operated it at one time, his uncle ran it for a spell, even two well-known Sonic owners had given the store a run.
“I thought it would be cool to run one that all those people had so that’s when I decided the Plaquemine location was the one I wanted,” he said. “…I wasn’t sure that I would even get into the Sonic business.”
“Then the bug bit me and knew immediately that I wanted to do it forever,” the young managing owner said.
Tucker said that while there were changes to the restaurant, the classic Sonic menu remains unchanged -- burgers and fries, tots, chicken sandwiches, foot-long Coney hot dogs, “millions of combinations of cold drinks,” and customer favorites mozzarella sticks, slushies and shakes.”
Another popular offering is Sonic’s happy hour from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., when all drinks are half price, Tucker said. “Everybody comes for happy hour. They love it.”
Part of what Tucker called “the huge, massive facelift” the local Sonic got was the addition of outside tables in front of the restaurant and a brand new covered patio with about a half a dozen tables under it.
“We’re hoping it becomes a place where the high school students will want to hang out,” he said.
The Sonic is open seven days a week, opening at 7 a.m. every morning and closing at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends. Tucker guarantees a great experience from today’s Sonic.
“It’s going to be good, the staff is going to be friendly, it’s going to be bright, clean and you’ll get your food quickly and your order will be right,” he said.