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Sonic will let customers tip their carhops

1,000 units are allowing customers to provide a gratuity to their servers by using a feature on the chain’s app.
Photograph courtesy of Sonic

About 1,000 of Sonic Drive-In’s 3,500 restaurants are now allowing customers to tip their car hop through the latest version of the chain’s ordering app, officials revealed Tuesday.  

An ability to digitally tip the employees who run meals out to a customer’s car has consistently ranked among the Top 2 requests aired by customers, CMO Lori Abou Habib explained in detailing the latest features of the app.

Sonic’s digital platform—known as ICE, for Integrated Consumer Engagement—is a bridge between the chain’s traditional car-hop service and the more modern model now used widely in the industry of allowing customers to order and pay in advance of arriving for a pickup.

With the app, Sonic patrons can place and pay for their orders remotely and then pull into any parking slot at their chosen restaurant. The system alerts the unit of the guest’s arrival and updates the customer on the status of their order. The food is carried to the driver’s car window by a staff member, sometimes on roller skates.

The customer could always slip the car hop a cash gratuity, but including a feature on the app eliminates the need for actual currency to change hands.

The tipping capability was revealed by the franchisor, now owned by Buffalo Wild Wings and Arby’s parent Inspire Brands, at a virtual press conference yesterday. Executives also spotlighted a number of products that have come out of its menu-development pipeline, along with several licensing deals for such items as a Sonic-brand hard seltzer and a chili-cheese-Coney-flavored Slim Jim meat snack.

During the event, management noted that a second restaurant sporting Sonic's new format and design is under development in Texas, following the debut of the prototype in Sonic's native Oklahoma. 

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