Sonic America’s Drive-in: Still on the Go.

Sonic America’s Drive-in: Still on the Go.

Sonic America’s Drive-in: Still on the Go In 1953, Troy Smith, a WWII veteran from Shawnee, Oklahoma, wanted to own his own business. His first was a diner with twelve stools and four booths called the Cottage Caf?Ÿ??. His next restaurant was called Panful of Chicken. This was so successful that he tried to open others. Fried chicken was not that popular in the early 50s, and the Panful of Chicken faded away. For a while, Troy owned a nice steak restaurant. In the lot where this was also sat a root beer stand. At first, he wanted to tear it down. But then he realized that it could bring in some extra cash. He named this the Top Hat Drive-in. The Top Hat was just like any other root beer stand of the era. It was a cash business that served hamburgers and hot dogs made the way you wanted. Customers would order at the walk up window. Then they had the choice to eat at picnic tables, or in their cars. The Top Hat was moderately successful, averaging $700 per week. Troy continued to look for ways to improve this business. While traveling in Louisiana, he saw homemade intercom speakers at a hamburger stand that let customers order right from their cars. He then contacted the innovator and asked him to make an intercom for the Top Hat. He hires some electricians to install the system at his drive-in. He also added a canopy for cars to park under, and hired servers to deliver the food directly to the cars. The first week with the intercom system, the Top Hat took in $1750. While visiting Shawnee, Charlie Pappe stopped by the Top Hat. He was so impressed with the concept and operation of the restaurant, that he went and introduced himself to Troy. Less than two years later, Charlie opened the second Top Hat Drive-in on May 18, 1956, in Woodward, Oklahoma. These drive-ins were such a hit with both customers and businessmen that by 1958, there were Top Hats in Shawnee, Woodward, Enid, and Stillwater. Only four Top Hats were ever opened,…


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