Sonic drive-in might open by mid-June

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — A new Sonic drive-in restaurant could be open as soon as mid-June at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Telegraph, company officials said last week.

Sonic franchisee Lou Dortch, of Dortch Enterprises LLC, is said to be in negotiations for the property, which was the former home to a Wendy’s drive-through. Dortch Enterprises is one of the largest restaurant franchise operators in southeast Michigan, owning several Q’Doba Mexican Grills and more than 35 Subways in the area.

The Wendy’s that used to occupy the site closed in 2008 and was demolished about a month ago. Next door to the former restaurant’s footprint is the old Showcase Cinema, which was closed in 2006. Southfield-based Investico Development Co. purchased both buildings as well as the adjoining parking lot for $2.25 million in May 2009.

Investico principal Ned Hakim reportedly intends on building a Hampton Inn hotel on the back portion of the 4.57-acre site.

Dortch was unavailable for comment for this story, but negotiations are progressing “well” according to a Sonic spokesperson that was authorized only to speak on background because of the ongoing negotiations.

The spokesperson added that the restaurant would begin hiring and training employees for Sonic’s trademark carhop service within the “next several weeks.” While the spokesperson could not provide specific employment numbers, other Sonic restaurants in Michigan employee about 40 full-time employees with an average hourly wage of $8.21 and about 32 part-time employees with an average hourly wage of $7.78.

When the restaurant opens, it will be one of fewer than 10 Sonics in the state. The first Michigan franchise opened in Southgate last year and has been followed by locations in Troy, Westland, Commerce, Clinton Township, Whitelake Township, and most recently, in Sterling Heights. Other locations planned for Sonics include Royal Oak, which is scheduled to open in May, and in Lansing, which is expected to open sometime this summer.

The Michigan market has been a booming success for the company, with hour-long lines reported frequently at several of the already-open franchises. The hamburger joint has garnered a cultlike following among fast-foodies who salivate over the Tot sides and more than 168,000 flavored drink combinations available on the menu.

Nationwide, Sonic has more than 3,500 franchises in 40 states. The restaurants feature a “fun, retro-future look that stands out” where customers can drive in, drive through or eat on the patio; roller skating carhop service; and “completely customizable” food and drinks made to order, according to the company’s Web site.