Troy Smith: the Founder of a Drive-In Restaurant

On this day, May 26 in the year 1922, the founder of Sonic Drive In was born in Oklahoma, United States. His name is Troy Smith Sr. His drive-in restaurants popularized ordering hamburger through a microphone.

Troy Smith
Troy Smith (Credit: New York Times)

Smith finished high school and got married in 1940. Three years after, he was drafted in the United States Army during World War II. When the war was over, he found a job as a milk truck driver but he found out that being an employee was not his cup of tea. So he opened a dining restaurant then a steakhouse. In 1953, he was the owner of a profitable root beer stand which he called Top Hat.

One day, Smith saw a fast food restaurant that used intercoms to allow customers to place orders directly from their car. He redesigned Top Hat to incorporate the new technology, expanded parking space and allowed orders to be delivered in three minutes using carhops on roller skates. In 1959, he changed the name to Sonic with the slogan “Service at Speed of Sound”.

In the 1970s, the business expanded exponentially through franchising. Mr. Smith continued to be active in the day-to-day management of the business until 1983 when he retired. He maintained a board seat though. In 2009, he died in Oklahoma after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for two decades. He had two children, a daughter and a son.

In 2018, Sonic Drive In was sold to Atlanta-based Inspire Brands, owner of Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, for $2.3 billion.

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