Dear LAist: Why Aren't There Any Sonic Drive-Ins In LA?

Food is served at a Sonic restaurant on September 25, 2018 in Cicero, Illinois. (Photo Illustraton by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WE'RE ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS ABOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA THAT KEEP YOU UP AT NIGHT. IF YOU HAVE ONE, ASK IT HERE.


Sonic has a devoted following but it's probably the hardest fast food chain to find in Southern California. (Rally's, you're a close second.) Finding a Sonic in Los Angeles means you'll be taking a drive. One LAist reader wants to know why.

They wrote in to ask: "Why isn't there Sonic in the L.A. metro area?" We also wanted to know the answer to that question.

If you use the Sonic Drive-In Locator, the nearest location you'll find is in Duarte, on the north side of the San Gabriel Valley. The only other locations in L.A. County are in Pomona and Palmdale. Then you have to head down to Orange County, to Anaheim.

We reached out to Sonic for comment and the company wouldn't answer our questions or address why there aren't any Sonic locations in the city of L.A.

Instead, they issued a statement touting their 17 locations in the "Los Angeles market" and said they have "more in the pipeline to open in the future."

"We are constantly evaluating opportunities to expand to meet consumer demand, and our franchisees in California are aggressively looking for new potential locations," Sonic's vice president of development and construction, Johnny Jones, said in the statement.

In this Oct. 1, 2008 file photo, a Sonic restaurant is pictured in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki/AP, File)

Now, there's a new wrinkle. The company that owns Arby's, Inspire Brands, recently bought Sonic. Does that make it more or less likely that we'll see more Sonics opening in Los Angeles? Arby's already has an outpost in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. and other locations around greater L.A., Inspire may think the area has enough fast food franchises.

Restaurant industry consultant Michael Whiteman tells us that the likely reasons for the lack of Sonics in L.A. include unions, high occupancy costs (including rent and taxes) and, perhaps, Sonic's unwillingness to adapt their menu and methodology to the needs of densely populated urban areas.

Some of the food at Sonic is notoriously caloric, even for fast food. Their Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast Shake will set you back more than 2,000 calories.

The Los Angeles market, home of the fast food burger, is also saturated with fast food — and the competition is fierce. Beloved local chains, like In-N-Out and Tommy's, vie for attention with major national chains and specialty restaurants.

So we'll catch you at In-N-Out or that Rally's on the edge of Glendale and Atwater Village.

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