Sonic rolls out tipping option to more than 2,000 units

The drive-in chain intends to offer guests an option at all of its units to reward employees with a gratuity.
Photo courtesy of Sonic

Sonic Drive-In is providing workers at nearly half its branches with an opportunity to boost their incomes through a new feature on the chain’s mobile-phone app.

The function enables customers to tack on a tip to orders that are placed via their smartphones for pickup or in-car consumption. Currently live at 2,033 of the brand’s more than 3,500 units, the option should be rolled out systemwide “soon,” according to brand representatives.

The new feature has already generated $12.2 million in gratuities for employees at the units that can accommodate the digital tipping, the chain said.

Unlike virtually all of its direct competitors in the quick-service burger segment, Sonic depends on drive-in service, where patrons pull into parking slots and receive their orders from a carhop. Orders are placed via a microphone at each slot, and employees run the order out to the vehicles and settle the bill.

The app streamlines the process by enabling patrons to order and pay in advance of pulling into a unit’s lot. The digital system sorts out in which slot the order will be handed over.

While customers could always slip the runner a few bucks as a gratuity, the app function streamlines the process and promises to cut service times.

Sonic representatives say the addition of a tipping capability to the app was one of the updates most requested by customers.  

The Inspire Brands-owned chain did not say how the tips might be distributed, nor whether the volume was great enough to enable the use of a tip credit in states where that break on wages is permitted.

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