Chef Claes Petersson, vice-president of product innovation at Sonic, gets to work in chain's new culinary innovation center based at the company headquarters.


OKLAHOMA CITY — Sonic Drive-In announced the opening of a new culinary innovation center, where the fast-food chain will test equipment and recipes to develop beverages, snacks, entrees and desserts. Sonic has invested more than $1 million in the new facility, which includes a culinary kitchen for creative development, a replicated Sonic restaurant kitchen to test products, a 40-seat dining room for presentations and consumer research, and a six-seat bar area for drink innovation.

“Though the Culinary Innovation Center will obviously benefit our team of chefs, we built it to support many elements of the Sonic business, including marketing, operations, supply chain and training,” said Chef Claes Petersson, vice-president of product innovation at Sonic. “It will not only make our culinary team more efficient and effective in what we do, but will also serve as a uniquely Sonic space where all aspects of our company can collaborate and work together toward our collective goals. This culinary epicenter is a symbol of Sonic’s commitment to creative innovation and quality, and a sign of our continued success.”

Sonic has 3,500 drive-in locations with plans to add 1,000 new units over the next 10 years. In fiscal 2014, the company had total revenues of $552,349,000, marking a 1.8% increase over the prior year.

Central to the chain’s growth strategy is menu innovation. In October, Sonic introduced a line of low-calorie, handcrafted sodas. Sonic Splash beverages are customized with flavor syrups and real fruit, with such combinations as Hawaiian Wave, which includes mango syrup, pineapple chunks and fresh lime juice.

“Our guests are increasingly interested in drinks of a lighter variety, but still want something special when they pull into a Sonic stall or drive-thru,” Mr. Petersson said. “We knew we had to continue to bring our consumers bold and original flavors, while balancing sweetness and fizz. As a result, our Sonic Splash handcrafted sodas satisfy the need for something special while still offering guilt-free hydration.”