Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sonic Drive In: Don't put the patty on a pedestal

When I was in high school in the early 00’s (gosh that was 10 years ago) Sonic Drive In began running a series of commercials in the Philadelphia television viewing area. As a spry sixteen year old I was intrigued by the drive-in concept, greasy hamburgers and brightly colored slushies. After seeing the initial run of commercials, I fired up our dial-up connection to locate the closest Sonic. To my surprise it was in West Virginia or something. At the time I thought the ad campaign was either a colossal waste of money or the most genius marketing strategy ever conceived.

As the years carried on I continued to see those commercials of people sitting in their cars and discussing their orders. Also, as the years carried on I continued to have no concept of where the nearest Sonic was located and gradually became enraged by the fact that the Sonic marketing team was advertizing to people that did not have access to a Sonic Drive In. Eventually I gave up and began ignoring the commercials much like other goods and services that I have no need for such as feminine hygiene products and Axe body spray.

This weekend TWSF was in Richmond for a wedding, and to my surprise we drove passed a Sonic on the way to the church. Pulling over and grabbing a snack in our formal wear wasn’t really an option, so I made a request to the other blogger to stop back on the way out of town. It was finally going to happen, after a decade of waiting I was going to lose my Sonic virginity. But like the forty year old virgin I was concerned that I had put the patty on a pedestal. Could Sonic ever live up to the expectations that accumulate over 10 years of watching commercials with no physical release?

The menu was not something that struck my old man pallet as particularly appetizing. Their selection of burgers, hotdogs, and Megan's choice of chili Frito cheese wrap would have been drool inducing for my younger self, but I was more concerned about having to sit in a car for 2 hours with this stuff in my stomach. I considered getting a slushie that had once intrigued me, but these days I find sugary drinks too sugary and considering I was not feeling so hot after the open bar I decided to stick with my water. I settled on the burger and tater tot combo which wasn’t particularly good, no better or worse than the other fast food chains.
Sonic had missed out on my formative years and where I developed a subconscious affiliation to other fast food chains. Michael Jordan never told me to eat at Sonic, Grandmom took me to Burger King when I was little not Sonic, and Sonic wasn't on the same block as my off campus house like Wendy's. Without that subconscious connection Sonic was just bland food that I was eating in my car out of my lap.

The concept of driving up, parking and eating in my car was not as appetizing as it was when I was 16. At 16 you practically live out of your car and eat untold amounts of food while driving aimlessly around the neighborhood. As a 26 year-old I was just concerned that my car would smell like deep fry and salt. I did not understand the appeal of eating in my car…. Where am I supposed to put my ketchup? On a napkin on the armchair, that doesn’t sound safe?

During my trip to Sonic, I felt like Dorothy like finally getting to Oz and being disappointed that there was just a little man behind a curtain. Maybe had I lived within range of a Sonic it would have made its way into my fast food rotation, but there was no way that Sonic could have lived up to the expectations of a 16 year old who put the patty on a pedestal.

Sonic Drive-in on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. your "SONIC had missed out on my formative years ..." paragraph is brilliant.

    i *think* passing on the slush was a mistake. my guess is a small lemon or lime (especially with extra lemon or lime) would have given you a mildly more interesting experience ... the tang of the real fruit knocks the (huge amounts of) sugar back quite a bit on your palate.

    the new dogs (new york, chicago, american) are good -especially for fast food- too ... but not the thing you'd order in a burger joint.

    forget what i say ... this is a nice piece.