Sonny's BBQ

Franchise Information
Chart BMM. Data: Technomic

Description: As of June, 2014, Sonny's has 120 restaurants spread in the southeast, mainly Florida.

The good? Sonny's BBQ, a private franchising firm headquartered in Florida with restaurants throughout the Southeast, had an average unit volume growth compounded annually of 4 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to restaurant researcher Technomic. It has managed to sail past the Great Depression when its competitors struggled.

Another good thing is that this system is concentrated in the southeast where it can build a significant brand rather than being spread out throughout kingdom come.

Franchise governance - The thing about rednecks, even if they are in an industry in which the culture and the legal structure are such that franchisees typically are mandated to fall in line without question, is that rednecks don't like dictatorships. They demand a seat at the table. So, kudos and major points to Sonny's franchise owners for pushing for and organizing their own independent franchisee association and then for the franchisor to put that association to work in its advisory councils. Double kudos for their association to successfully re-negotiate a better franchise contract. Moreover, they have had in the past national purchasing cooperatives owned and run by franchisees. They can exercise that right in the future. Blue MauMau believes that such structures are a major leg up in a chain's ability to learn from its entrepreneurs from the grass roots. That these types of systems are more competitive and smarter than the top-down competition. Contrary to public opinion, rednecks can be really smart.

The question is -- does the franchisor's top officers believe in the business talent of their restaurant owner-operators and use it as a key competitive advantage. The way the chain is organized says they do. But judgment will be postponed until Blue MauMau interviews the management team.

ROI? (Researching. This is THE question.)

The bad? The number of Sonny's casual dining restaurants have shrunk slightly from 130 in 2009 down to 124 by the end of 2013. That's a bad sign.

I cannot find a public franchise disclosure document for Sonny's BBQ to review. Worse yet, its franchise development team is not responding to Blue MauMau's requests for one.

Casual dining - Traffic in the casual dining restaurant segment that barbecue resides in has been sagging for years. Visits to casual dining restaurants were at a 6-year low in the year ending February 2014, according to a food researcher the NPD Group. Since 2009 casual dining traffic has been declining at a rate of two percent each year. Major casual dining chains have held up better than smaller chains long-term because of their ability to advertise and deal more than the smaller chains and independents. Visits to major casual dining chains have been flat for the last five years compared to visit declines of 3 percent for small chains and independents, according to NPD's foodservice market research.

Dog or star? (Researching further)

Ratings of others in the same barbeque space:

Dear Blue MauMau reader,

  1. Rate this franchise concept from a scale of money losing, franchisee hating 1 to golden goose, franchisee divinely satisfied 5 by clicking on appropriate number of stars below.
  2. Why did you rate it the way you did?
  3. What has been your experience as a franchise owner of Sonny's BBQ or your evaluation of Dickey's future prospects? (Please provide hyperlinks of collaborating evidence so that the rest of us can know there is merit to what you write.)Tell us how much your store made in a year. How many years have you operated?
  4. What is your evaluation of the barbecue space? What are the trends? What are competitors doing that is affecting your business or changing the marketplace in the barbecue space? Any threats from outside? Opportunities?
Sonny's BBQ< Ownership 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 CAGR
United States Systemwide Sales ($000's) Company owned 23,186 22,500 22,500 22,000 27,000 -3.74%
   Franchised 223,328 218,500 220,700 216,000 200,000 2.80%
   Total 246,514 241,000 243,200 238,000 227,000 2.08%

United States Number of Units

Company owned 10 10 10 10 16 -11.09%









   Total 124 125 127 128 >130 -1.17%
Average Unit Volume ($000's)    1,988 1,915 1,915 1,850 1,700 3.99%

Data by Technomic