For more than 55 years, Sonny’s BBQ, the purpose-driven BBQ restaurant, has found the secret sauce to serving its customers and team members. The pillars include spreading kindness, BBQ expertise, quality ingredients and service and a deep understanding of the communities and guests they serve. The evolution of what this means has resulted in year-over-year growth and industry leadership that will serve the brand as it heads into 2024 with focused priorities and goals. Sonny’s BBQ Chief Operating Officer Billy Brewer and Chief Brand Officer Peter Frey share their key learnings from 2023 that have positioned the brand to remain top of its class through an enhanced guest experience, training and development for team members, strengthening foundational operations, and delivery on quality and value.
2023 Business Priorities Result in Strong Year-End
Sonny’s BBQ has made meaningful progress and remained competitive despite industry-wide struggles to drive in-store traffic since the pandemic. As guest preferences continue to shift towards more off-premise dining options, Sonny’s BBQ prioritized the delivery of an improved curbside experience through geo-location tracking and an enhanced online presentation, among other efforts.
“As we experienced in 2023, technological advancements are guaranteed to revolutionize the restaurant experience,” says Peter Frey, Sonny’s BBQ’s Chief Brand Officer. “We’ll continue to seek smart ways to integrate digital innovations to reduce operational friction, enhance ordering efficiency, personalize dining preferences, and elevate overall customer satisfaction.”
As always, Sonny’s BBQ has kept a laser focus on their guests, and has used the insight gained from their guests to drive decisions within the company. Specifically, Sonny’s BBQ has been following the changes in guest preferences that have stemmed from larger economic shifts. As the economy has influenced guest behavior and tendencies this past year, Sonny’s BBQ remained agile and flexible in their management and strategies. While quality remained the top priority, leadership honed in on value propositions that resonated with consumers and supported increased sales and store traffic.
“We have continued to be open to change and ready for challenges. Between staffing and continued supply chain volatility, we have to look for new ways to operate effectively,” explains Billy Brewer, Chief Operating Officer at Sonny’s BBQ. “Next year, we will work on simplifying and streamlining our current service model to help adapt to the changing staffing environment. We will continue to look for multiple sources for all products. We have learned over the last few years you must have plan b and c ready in regard to the supply chain.”
Looking Towards the Future
Leaders at Sonny’s BBQ anticipate the hospitality and restaurant industry to feel the growing pressures of similar challenges as 2023, though the brand is positioned to adapt and grow. Flexibility will drive Sonny’s BBQ’s strategy in 2024, as they continue to prioritize the evolution in their customer experience through improving and implementing new technology while focusing on consistency in their food and service. One key objective of the next year will be the development of a Sonny’s BBQ mobile app, which will cater to off-premise dining preferences and enhance online ordering and pickup.
In an effort to streamline operations, Sonny’s BBQ will test a few different initiatives to make our service model more effective aimed at removing unnecessary steps and building in more checks and balances to ensure consistency and quality. As part of these efforts, Sonny’s BBQ is testing new store prototypes with a smaller footprint that are designed to more efficiently address off-premise dining preferences and staff operations. On top of that, there will be a heightened focus on leadership development and training within each restaurant’s community. This strategic priority aims to bring new opportunities to exceptional leaders including Pitmaster Academy, prospective franchising program, and effective technology implementation that increases knowledge, transparency and speed in communication.
“We’re focused on building a plan that excels in fundamental activities and strategies that are the foundation of our historical success,” says Peter Frey, Chief Brand Officer for Sonny’s BBQ. “Our priorities are to double down on providing outstanding service at every touchpoint and furthering our kindness initiatives in each local community that we serve.”
In 2024, Sonny’s BBQ will heighten their focus on hyper-local community activations, kindness initiatives and local marketing efforts that will allow the brand to connect more directly with its guests, team members, and neighbors. With the appointment of Tara Boyle as the new Chief Kindness Officer, Sonny’s BBQ will be expanding their kindness crew and introducing new initiatives meant specifically to build connection and education opportunities for youth in their communities.
Guests, fans, and team members of Sonny’s BBQ are top of mind heading into the next year, and can look forward to new service models, southern hospitality and impactful moments that will further improve their experience.