Maranda at Work: Carhopping at Sonic

Maranda at Work: Carhopping at Sonic
(Maranda Whittington)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It’s one of the few fast food places left where you can still get your meal from a worker on roller skates.

I’m talking about Sonic — and there’s plenty of them scattered around the Ark-La-Tex. But what’s going on behind the scenes when you order your food?

The red button you press to order your food, is the one that leads you to the world of Sonic.

Maranda at Work: Carhopping at Sonic

Workers at the location on South Barksdale in Bossier City work pretty hard to make sure you get your favorite sandwich, and cherry limeade.

So how does it all really work? Well that’s what I wanted to find out. Before I could dive into the Sonic world, I had to learn how this location got it’s start from a guy name Paul Reiser.

“The reason we are in the Sonic business is because when my dad was a little boy he always wanted to be in business for himself,” Reiser said.

The eighth of nine siblings, Paul’s father grew up poor in Wichita, Kansas, but he always wanted to have his own business.

“He was selling things out of his locker, washing dishes on his lunch break, and he was the kid very famously bought his first car when he was 13-years-old," said Reiser.

Paul Reiser's father when he was 13-years-old (Source: Paul Reiser)
Paul Reiser's father when he was 13-years-old (Source: Paul Reiser)

His family moved to Monroe, Louisiana in 1976 to open one of the city's first Sonic Drive-In's.

“When we first got into the Sonic business it was kind of hard," he said. "Small business family owned so we all worked in the store. So I’m nine years old carhopping, my sister’s at the fountain and my brother’s cooking and managing and we just all grew up in the business.”

Paul eventually left and went to school, getting a degree in video production, but hamburgers and shakes just had a way of bringing him back into the business — but not without some challenges.

“I first took over the old Sonic in Bossier," he said. “There was no casinos, I guess there was a mall. So my manager called me — well my assistant called me and said ‘hey someone just got shot robbing the Thrifty Liquor and they’re hiding behind our dumpster’ — so that’s the neighborhood that we were in.”

Over time things started to get better.

Now Paul is the president of Reiser Group Sonic Management where he and his family now own 37 Sonic Drive In’s across Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Florida.

Paul briefed me on how everything all works here, and then he paired me up with cook Brad Blunt to show me how to prepare the food.

Once we washed our hands, Brad demonstrated how to make a toaster sandwich, then it was my turn.

I dropped some oil down, then the egg, and while that’s cooking I drop the toast in to cook, and head back over to finish cooking my egg.

Everything will get placed on the toast, get wrapped up and it heads out the door.

Next I met Tiffany Padgett who showed me how to make a cherry limeade and ice cream.

But the final task I had to do, was deliver the food which required skates.

Paul was nice enough to order me a pair of skates, and once I got them on it was time to test them out

I met carhop Kade Wilcher who showed me how to master the basics, and then we did a lap around the building.

Next we went back inside so Kade can show me how to deliver orders.

Once an order comes in and is completed, Kade will read the receipt to make sure he has everything he needs. He'll load up his tray and head out the door to deliver the food.

While I struggled on my skates, Kade is reading the order to the customer and making sure they have everything they need.

Once he finishes, it was my turn. As I tried not to fall and spill my customer’s order, I introduced myself and was able to finally give her, her meal.

My fancy skating skills even got me a tip and some free coffee!

But as I learned the tricks and trades of Sonic, working with this staff showed me just why Paul loves what he does.

“I got a lot of great people working for us and I try to invest in them," he said. "We try to do training, we try to teach people how to have a better life through how do you make the most out of what you do.”

But one thing’s for sure, if there’s a city in need of a Sonic-Drive In , Paul just might be there building the next one.

“Ray Kroc was 52 when he first started franchising McDonalds so I’m 52," he said. I’m just getting started.”

Paul has his own Facebook page called “The Sonic Guy Paul Reiser” where he shows what’s going on his Sonic stores, and previews new food items coming up.

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