Sonic Corp. building test kitchen at headquarters

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Sonic Corp. is building a new 3,429-square-foot test kitchen at its corporate headquarters in Bricktown designed to take the company’s menu to the next level as the company embarks on plans to grow the chain by 1,000 new locations over the next 10 years.

The new test kitchen will allow Claes Petersson, Sonic’s vice president of research and development and innovation, and his team of six innovations staff members to develop new products for Sonic Drive-Ins nationwide.

“This is where we are going to build the future of Sonic food,” Petersson told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/1s3Plzr).

Sonic is limited on kitchen space at its headquarters at 300 Johnny Bench Drive in Bricktown. There is a small test kitchen on site, as well as space at the Bricktown Sonic restaurant next door to the company’s corporate offices. It’s not an ideal situation because the restaurant has to be closed when Sonic wants to test out new products there. The company also has to conduct many of its food testing focus groups in Dallas.

It can take Sonic up to a year to develop and test a new product before it ends up on Drive-In menus, Petersson said. The company is developing menu items that will appear on Sonic menu boards in summer 2015.

After a new product like a new sandwich or shake is developed, taste tested, and tweaked for a variety of reasons, Sonic has to train its roughly 400 franchisees how to duplicate the item at 3,500 drive-ins in 44 states.

“We don’t hire chefs, we hire team members, so we need everyone to be able to replicate an item everywhere,” Sonic spokesman Patrick Lennow said.

Construction is expected to take three to four months. Building permits filed with the city indicate construction of the new kitchen will cost about $700,000.

The new test kitchen will include a kitchen designed to duplicate the equipment featured in Sonic kitchens across the country, along with a culinary test kitchen featuring top-of-the-line equipment for testing new recipes.

The kitchen also will include a bar area for small kitchen demonstrations, as well as full dining room that will seat 40 people for larger meetings, tastings and focus groups.

The kitchen will be equipped with video cameras for remote training sessions and meetings.

The test kitchen is being designed in a sleek, minimalist Scandinavian style that Petersson hopes will put the focus on the food.

“I want everything to look plain and slick, so that the food will be able to talk to you,” Petersson said.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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