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Why is Sonic so bad?

Seeing the other thread about Sonic got me to wondering--how does Sonic succeed as a chain, serving such terrible food? I've given them two tries (different outlets), and both times the food has been nasty--inedible. I don't expect that much from a fast food burger, but considering how long it took to get to me, and their claim that the food is made-to-order, how come the burger tastes like it's been congealing under the heat lamps for an hour? Even their limeades (which supposedly are made with real limes) taste bitter, nasty, and artificial.

Am I missing something, or just ordering the wrong things? A burger at In n Out is about a thousand times better.

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  1. I've never had the burger or the limeade. I always order a coney w/cheese and a banana cream pie shake.
    I'll admit it's not "Great" but since I live in Canada and only get there once in a while, the novelty factor works for me.


    1. Sounds like you had a bad experience. I have always like Sonic - especially the SuperSonic with mustard and onions, tots, and a REAL cherry flavored Dr. Pepper. The burger is probably better than average fast food, but the stars are the tots and the drinks. They are very big outside In-N-Out territory.

      Sonic's advantages are their much larger menu, including a good breakfast, more drink options, and the kitsch factor of an old-fashioned drive-in joint. I prefer the burgers from In-N-Out, but I still love Sonic when I get the chance. I have never tried the limeades, but there are so many other options.

      1. I have to say I quite enjoy Sonic. And the cherry(limeade) on top is that they offer the #2...a fastfood burger exactly the way I like it...no irritating haggling with machine-retarded cashiers...I just say..."number 2, please." And bingo.

        1. I've never had a burger there either, but the foot long hot dogs are decent. As other's have said, not great, but decent.

          It's possible that some locations are just junky. One of the more reliable chains that I go in my area is Chilis, but a family member thinks they are terrible. I tried the Chilis in his area and I would have thought the same thing.

          1. I love their ice.The have that hard to find little bitty ice that stays frozen for a really long time.I gave up soda so the only time I allow myself to have one is at sonic for a cherry coke...which is to die for!I have never had a burger there I always get a corndog which is great if you are on the road like myself because you never have to worry about spilling it all down you!

            1. It's the ice - yes!! It's the crushed ice in the drinks that is key. I love their limeades, especially the diet cherry limeade for those of us who need to watch the sugar.

              Their burgers are pretty mediocre.

              1. I like swinging through the drive-thru for just a large lime-ade. Very refreshing. But you've got to say "easy on the ice" otherwise the cup is half ice.
                I agree that their burgers are pretty crappy, but where else can you find tater tots. Those are great.

                1. I love their breakfast burrito that has lots of jalapenos in it...Since they serve breakfast all day, I order that with an order of tots and a cherry-limeade, and I'm a happy camper.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wyf4lyf

                    a friend of mine was working in a small town for a couple weeks and went to sonic everyday. he said the best thing to order is the breakfast burrito during non-breakfast hours as this will ensure that it will actually be made to order.

                  2. The reason the limeade is nasty is because it's not really limeade, it's Sprite. I hate Sprite. I imagine people who don't hate Sprite would enjoy the limeades. I think they squeeze half a lime and whatever flavor (like cherry) into the Sprite.

                    Now the Slushies...that's a horse of a different color. No Sprite. Real fruit (+sugar and water and lots of very very fine ice). I Crave the slushies in the summer.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: danna

                      Last summer when we were going down to my folks we went to the Sonic several times looking for a limeade. Too many of them seemed to be just flavored Sprite, which coats your mouth with goo.

                      Back home we went over to Ft. Dodge (45 miles from here) and there were the real limeades, not Sprite, the real thing, as I remember. (I grew up eating at Sonic--but it isn't as good as it used to be.)

                    2. Ok yesterday I was out running errands and had a headache from no soda so I went to Sonic for my beloved cherry coke and at the last minute decided to add fries and a corndog.It was delish.I never eat fries there so I was shocked at how tasty they were.For less than 3.oo I was very happy.


                      1. Funny, because here in Texas, Sonic's really aren't bad. Not great by anyone's definition, but definitely not inedible, by a long shot.

                        Ditto to the summertime slush cravings, btw. Lemon-berry slushes are like drive-in ambrosia of the gods. ;-)

                        1. Perhaps your visits dealt with severe quality control (QC) issues. For example, just slapping food together without reguards to holding times. The beef patty, once cooked may considered to be sell-able as long it is under 10 minutes in whatever holding method they use.

                          Made to order to me is subjective in nature anyway. It's not like you make your order, then they alert the baker to make the bun or alert the butcher for processing the meat for your hamburger... Some, if not most processes, have to be done before hand, and someplace along the line QC went out the window. It all must fall into place or it simply falls apart.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: RShea78

                            True. When I hear "made-to-order", I assume that means "cooked-to-order", but I guess it sometimes means "assembled-to-order".

                            I used get around this problem at McDonalds by ordering my burgers as a "grill", with ketchup and onions only. This guaranteed a freshly cooked burger. However, this was 10 or so years ago, before they started their "Q" system (pre-frying their burgers, and then nuking them just prior to serving). At the time, I had read about this process change in a Usenet McDonald's newsgroup. Sure enough, their burgers were no good after that change. YMMV, of course.

                            1. re: Steve Green

                              Well, before long these fast food joints will be selling microwave sandwitches out of convience stores

                              Geez, It just occurred White Castle and Rally's are already selling those from the local mom and pop convience store!

                              It boggles the mind...


                          2. They don't exist in my area, but they have the best fast food commercials.

                            If marketing counts, then that's why they are succeeding in my opinion. I love their ads, they actually make me laugh.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PaulF

                              yeah dude me and my friends are traveling 3 hours away just to go to one

                            2. I'd love to have a Sonic up here, but as far as I can tell, the closest one to here is nearly 300 miles away. I used to eat there all the time growing up, but moved away from their territory.

                              1. I like the Super Sonic breakfast burrito with sausage, eggs, jalapenos and tater tots. The burgers are just ok and I had a grilled chicken sandwich once that was inedible. I stick to the burritos.

                                1. They make a grilled chicken wrap that's not too bad. I do like the regular breakfast burritos, but I'm not going to try one with tater tots in it. THey don't belong there.

                                  1. They don't have Sonic's in the DC area, so I've never had one until last week when I was in NC. I really like it (like a previous reply had said, most likely due to their large menu and the novelty factor). The tots were good, and in my famished state, everything I ate was very tasty.

                                    1. ummm...cause it's fast food?

                                      1. I had a bad Sonic experience, and the location near where I lived at the time had a bad reputation with my friends. I assumed they were all bad. (This was when I was a teenager.)

                                        When we moved to the small town we live in now, we had few "restaurants." One was Sonic, which was really the only chain fast food option at the time. I was hooked. Their burgers were good (reminiscent of the old brazier burgers from DQ that I loved as a kid, pickles & mustard only, please!) And the tater tots - O M Gosh. I always liked tater tots, but theirs are most unhealthily FRIED, and I LOVE them.

                                        I have to watch my sugar, and I get diet cherry limeades or diet strawberry limeades. The quality varies from place to place. My mom gets 2 whole limes in hers (Florida). Our place gives us not even 1/4 of a lime, and if you ask for extra, they charge you! I'm limited on what I can drink due to avoiding sugared and caffeinated beverages. (It's hard to find a drink that is both caffeine-free & sugar-free. Not at the grocer, etc., but at restaurants.) I'm not a huge fan of Sprite, but when you can never find a soft drink anywhere, it's exciting to a. find one and b. find one with a little flavor.

                                        And double ditto on the ice. Our Sonic lets us buy it by the bag. (Some do, others don't.)

                                        If they started carrying caffeine-free Diet Coke and I could get a diet cherry Coke with that awesome ice, I think I'd flip! :)

                                        We've tried lots of things on the menu, and really I can't complain about any of them (realizing it's fast food and not always particularly healthy). We even like their grilled chicken salads they have.

                                        Hopefully you'll find a location that's decent. In the meantime, complain to corporate about the ones near you. It might help, at least for a while. (At which point you'll have to complain again. :) )

                                        1. My favorite burger at Sonic has, unfortunately, been taken off the menu. It was my favorite all the way from childhood. It was the "Hickory Burger" or No. 3. It was (I think) lettuce, tomato, onion and BBQ sauce. But they're not available any more. THere is a hickory bacon monstrosity, but it's much bigger and has a lot more stuff I don't necessarily need than my old hickory burger.

                                          All the ones I've been too still have awesome onion rings, though.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: revsharkie

                                            I am sure if you asked nice, they can make you a regular Sonic Burger with just lettuce, tomato, onion, and BBQ Sauce.

                                          2. I could live on strawberry lime cream slushes.

                                            1. I have a problem with the fries. They are batter dipped as are most of the fast food french fries in town. I think McDonalds is the last hold out in that area. But anyway, I cannot digest that horrible coating they put on batter dipped french fries. I can understand why fast food places do it but in order to keep the fries hot and crisp, you sacrifice all the taste in the process. You can't even tell what you are eating. If I'm going to ruin my diet with a french fry, I at least want to be able to taste some potato in it.

                                              1. I have no problem with Sonic. I have had some of the breakfast foods and burgers. No better or worse than the other chains. Perhaps it's the novelty of going there when I visit Texas, as the nearest one to where I live in NY is 132 miles away, but I don't think so. And the tater tots take me back to when Mom made them for me when I was a kid.

                                                1. Think that they use REALLY cheap ingredients. They also have this habit of putting the burger in a foil packet to keep the heat in, and inevitably the bun is about as soggy as it can get...Gross!

                                                  1. Try the STRAWBERRY limeade. My personal favorite.

                                                    1. What's with all of the cream pie shakes containing coconut? Also, the onion rings taste strongly of vanilla. I don't get it.

                                                      1. Well, I used to work at Sonic in the 70's when I was a teenager. The onion rings were made from fresh onions, not anymore. They had the best shakes, not anymore, (they taste like powder). They had the best chilidogs, not anymore (taste like chili comes from a can). The cheese comes from a can also. The prices are outragious! $4.00 for a cheeseburgar that is really not even that tasty is ridiculas. They have high prices on several of their menu items, I think I paid almost $5.00 for a chicken sandwich, which I could of thown in the trash. I do like their slushes, which I only buy during happy hour, (half price).

                                                        What happened to Sonic? One good thing, the service is outstanding.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: teresabol

                                                          I think that's why I go, the service. It's the only fast food joint that will reliably give me plenty of jalapeƱos and never screw my order up, bonus is the food is also hot.

                                                        2. The onion rings are greasy and frozen and have that taste you get from a fried food vendor at a State Fair. The burger is sloppily thrown together and is smooshed in the foil wrapper with the hot meat making the lettuce wilt. The cheese from the coney is stuck to the foil pouch and you have to tear it open and scrape it off with an onion ring or tot. I don't really know why but it's my go to place for fast food and I hardly ever go anywhere else like McDonalds or Wendy's. Jack in the Box, Burger King, Hardee's... never even considered.
                                                          You can add jalapeƱos and their milkshakes are pretty good.