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From Top Hat to Sonic Drive-In


In 1953 WWII veteran Troy Smith converted an old log home into an upscale restaurant in Shawnee. In front was a little root beer stand called Top Hat.

By the end of the first year, Troy noticed that the net profit of the steak house was less than five percent of gross, while the net profit at the root beer stand was 20 percent. To increase the gross revenue, he added carhops, awnings, music and two-way speakers.

When he tried to franchise the concept in 1959, Top Hat was already taken. Therefore, the new name he selected was Sonic.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Center

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