form10k.htm


UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549

FORM 10-K
 
 

x                  ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended:  August 31, 2009

OR

o                  TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from _______________ to _________________

Commission File Number 0-18859

SONIC CORP.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

Delaware
 
73-1371046
(State of incorporation)
 
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 
300 Johnny Bench Drive
 
       
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
73104
 
(Address of principal executive offices)
Zip Code

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:  (405) 225-5000
 
Securities registered pursuant to section 12(b) of the Act:

None

Securities registered pursuant to section 12(g) of the Act:

Common Stock, Par Value $.01 (Title of class)

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes T.  No £.

(Facing Sheet Continued)
 




Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes £.  No T.
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file the reports), and (2) has been subject to the filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes T.  No £.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).  Yes £.  No £.

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in  Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  T.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.  (Check one):

Large accelerated filer T
Accelerated filer £
Non-accelerated filer £
Smaller reporting company £

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).  Yes £.  No T.

As of February 28, 2009, the aggregate market value of the 57,065,207 shares of common stock of the Company held by non-affiliates of the Company equaled $513,586,863 based on the closing sales price for the common stock as reported for that date.

As of October 15, 2009, the Registrant had 61,079,661 shares of common stock issued and outstanding.

Documents Incorporated by Reference

Part III of this report incorporates by reference certain portions of the definitive proxy statement which the Registrant will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission no later than 120 days after August 31, 2009.
 
 
 

 

FORM 10-K OF SONIC CORP.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
PART I
     
Item 1.
1
     
Item 1A.
7
     
Item 1B.
12
     
Item 2.
12
     
Item 3.
12
     
Item 4.
12
     
Item 4A.
13
     
PART II
     
Item 5.
14
     
Item 6.
15
     
Item 7.
17
     
Item 7A.
26
     
Item 8.
27
     
Item 9.
27
     
Item 9A.
27
     
Item 9B.
30
     
PART III
     
Item 10.
30
     
Item 11.
30
     
Item 12.
30
     
Item 13.
30
     
Item 14.
30
     
PART IV
     
Item 15.
30


FORM 10-K

SONIC CORP.

PART I


Item 1.  Business

General

Sonic Corp. operates and franchises the largest chain of drive-in restaurants (“Sonic Drive-Ins”) in the United States.  References to “Sonic Corp.,” “the Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” in this Form 10-K are references to Sonic Corp. and its subsidiaries.

The Sonic Drive-In restaurant chain began in the early 1950’s.  Sonic Corp. was incorporated in the State of Delaware in 1990 in connection with its 1991 public offering of common stock.  Our principal executive offices are located at 300 Johnny Bench Drive, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73104.  Our telephone number is (405) 225-5000.

The Sonic Brand

At a standard Sonic Drive-In restaurant, a customer drives into one of 20 to 36 covered drive-in spaces, orders through an intercom speaker system, and has the food delivered by a carhop.  Many Sonic Drive-Ins also include a drive-thru lane and patio seating.

Sonic Drive-Ins feature Sonic signature items, such as specialty drinks including cherry limeades and slushes, frozen desserts, made-to-order sandwiches and hamburgers, extra-long chili cheese coneys, hand-battered onion rings, tater tots, salads, and wraps.  Sonic Drive-Ins also offer breakfast items that include sausage or bacon with egg and cheese Breakfast Toaster® or CroisSONICTM Breakfast Sandwiches, and sausage and egg burritos.  Sonic Drive-Ins serve the full menu all day.

Business Strategy

Our objective is to maintain our position as or to become a leading restaurant operator in all of our markets.  We have developed and implemented a strategy designed to build the Sonic brand and to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and repeat business.  The key elements of that strategy are:  (1) a unique drive-in concept focusing on a distinctive menu of quality made-to-order food products including several signature items; (2) a commitment to customer service featuring the quick delivery of food by carhops; (3) the expansion of Sonic Drive-Ins within the continental United States; (4) an owner/operator philosophy, in which managers have an equity interest in their restaurants, thereby providing an incentive for managers to operate restaurants profitably and efficiently; and (5) a commitment to strong franchisee relationships.

Restaurant Locations

As of August 31, 2009, the Company had 3,544 Sonic Drive-Ins in operation from coast to coast, consisting of 475 Partner Drive-Ins and 3,069 Franchise Drive-Ins.  Partner Drive-Ins are those Sonic Drive-Ins in which the Company owns a majority interest and the supervisor and manager of the drive-in typically own a minority interest.  Franchise Drive-Ins are owned and operated by our franchisees.  The following table sets forth the number of Partner Drive-Ins and Franchise Drive-Ins by state as of August 31, 2009:
 
1


States
Partner
Franchise
Total
Alabama
 
110
110
Arizona
 
97
97
Arkansas
 
195
195
California
 
46
46
Colorado
35
48
83
Delaware
 
4
4
Florida
38
78
116
Georgia
12
112
124
Idaho
 
19
19
Illinois
2
39
41
Indiana
 
29
29
Iowa
2
12
14
Kansas
37
99
136
Kentucky
1
84
85
Louisiana
 
171
171
Maine
 
1
1
Maryland
 
1
1
Michigan
 
7
7
Minnesota
 
7
7
Mississippi
 
122
122
Missouri
15
191
206
Montana
 
1
1
Nebraska
 
29
29
New Jersey
 
9
9
New York
 
2
2
Nevada
 
23
23
New Mexico
 
71
71
North Carolina
 
96
96
Ohio
 
42
42
Oklahoma
91
177
268
Oregon
 
12
12
Pennsylvania
 
20
20
South Carolina
 
74
74
South Dakota
 
4
4
Tennessee
28
200
228
Texas
214
736
950
Utah
 
23
23
Virginia
 
55
55
Washington
 
8
8
West Virginia
 
5
5
Wisconsin
 
6
6
Wyoming
 
4
4
 
     
Total
475
3,069
3,544
 
Expansion

During fiscal year 2009, we opened 141 Sonic Drive-Ins, which consisted of 11 Partner Drive-Ins and 130 Franchise Drive-Ins.  Expansion plans for fiscal year 2010 involve the opening of multiple Sonic Drive-Ins under area development agreements, as well as single-store development by long-standing franchisees.  We believe that our existing as well as newly opened markets offer significant growth opportunities for both Partner Drive-In and Franchise Drive-In expansion.  The ability of Sonic and its franchisees to open the anticipated number of Sonic Drive-Ins during fiscal year 2010 necessarily will depend on various factors, including those discussed in this Form 10-K under Item 1A. Risk Factors – Failure to successfully implement our growth strategy could reduce, or reduce the growth of, our revenue and net income.

2


Restaurant Design and Construction

The typical Sonic Drive-In consists of a kitchen housed in a one-story building flanked by canopy-covered rows of 20 to 36 parking spaces, with each space having its own payment terminal, intercom speaker system and menu board.  In addition, since 1995, most new Sonic Drive-Ins have incorporated a drive-thru service and patio seating area.

Marketing

We have designed our marketing program to differentiate Sonic Drive-Ins from our competitors by emphasizing five key areas of customer satisfaction:  (1) wide variety of distinctive made-to-order menu items, (2) personal delivery of service by carhops, (3) speed of service, (4) quality, and (5) value.  The marketing plan includes promotions for use throughout the Sonic chain.  We support those promotions with television, radio, interactive media, point-of-sale materials, and other media as appropriate.  Those promotions generally center on products which highlight limited time new product introductions or signature menu items of Sonic Drive-Ins.

Each year Sonic develops a marketing plan with the involvement of the Sonic Franchise Advisory Council.  (Information concerning the Sonic Franchise Advisory Council is set forth on page 6 under Franchise Program -Franchise Advisory Council.)  Funding for our marketing plan is comprised of the System Marketing Fund, the Sonic Brand Fund and local advertising expenditures.

The System Marketing Fund focuses on purchasing advertising on national cable and broadcast networks and other national media, sponsorship and brand enhancement opportunities.  The Sonic Brand Fund is our national media production fund.    Our franchise agreements require advertising contributions to these funds by franchisees.  Franchisees are also required to spend additional amounts on local advertising, typically through participation in the local advertising cooperative.

The total amount spent on media (principally television) was approximately $184 million for fiscal year 2009, and we expect media expenditures to exceed $178 million for fiscal 2010.

Purchasing

We negotiate with suppliers for our primary food products and packaging supplies to ensure adequate quantities of food and supplies and to obtain competitive prices.  We seek competitive bids from suppliers on many of our food products.  We approve suppliers of those products and require them to adhere to our established product and food safety specifications.  Suppliers manufacture several key products for Sonic under private label and sell them to authorized distributors for resale to Sonic Drive-Ins.  We require all Sonic Drive-Ins to purchase from approved distribution centers.

Food Safety and Quality Assurance

To ensure the consistent delivery of safe, high-quality food, we created a food safety and quality assurance program.  Sonic’s food safety program promotes the quality and safety of all products and procedures utilized by all Sonic Drive-Ins, and provides certain requirements that must be adhered to by all suppliers, distributors, and Sonic Drive-Ins.  We also have a comprehensive, restaurant-based food safety program called Sonic Safe.  Sonic Safe is a risk-based system that utilizes Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles for managing food safety and quality.  Our food safety system includes employee training, supplier product testing, unannounced drive-in food safety auditing by independent third-parties, and other detailed components that monitor the safety and quality of Sonic’s products and procedures at every stage of the food preparation and production cycle.  Employee food safety training is covered under our Sonic Drive-In training program, referred to as the STAR Training Program.  This program includes specific training information and requirements for every station in the drive-in.  We also require our drive-in managers and assistant managers to pass the ServSafe training program.  ServSafe is the most recognized food safety training certification in the restaurant industry.

3


Company Operations

Restaurant Personnel.  A typical Partner Drive-In is operated by a manager, two to four assistant managers, and approximately 25 hourly employees, many of whom work part-time.  The manager has responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the Partner Drive-In.  Each supervisor has the responsibility of overseeing an average of four to seven Partner Drive-Ins.  Sonic Restaurants, Inc. (“SRI”), Sonic’s operating subsidiary, oversees the operations and development of and provides administrative services to all Partner Drive-Ins.

Ownership Program.  Our philosophy stresses an ownership relationship with supervisors and managers.  As part of the ownership program, either a limited liability company or a general partnership is formed to own and operate each individual Partner Drive-In.  SRI owns a majority interest, typically at least 60%, in each of these limited liability companies and partnerships.  Generally, the supervisors and managers own a minority interest in the limited liability company or partnership. The amount of ownership percentage is separately negotiated for each Partner Drive-In.  Supervisors and managers are not employees of Sonic or of the limited liability companies or partnerships in which they have an ownership interest.  As owners, they share in the cash flow and are responsible for their share of any losses incurred by their Partner Drive-Ins.  We believe that our ownership structure provides a substantial incentive for Partner Drive-In supervisors and managers to operate their restaurants profitably and efficiently.  Additional information regarding our ownership program can be found under Ownership Program, in Part II, Item 7, at page 24 of this Form 10-K.

Sonic records the interests of supervisors and managers as “minority interest in earnings of Partner Drive-Ins” under costs and expenses on its financial statements.  We estimate that the average percentage interest of a supervisor was 17% and the average percentage interest of a manager in a Partner Drive-In was 21% in fiscal year 2009.  Each Partner Drive-In distributes its available cash flow to its supervisors and managers and to Sonic on a monthly basis pursuant to the terms of the operating agreement or partnership agreement for that restaurant.  Sonic has the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the minority interest of the supervisor or manager in the restaurant.  The amounts of the buy-in and the buy-out are generally based on the Partner Drive-In’s sales during the preceding 12 months and approximate the fair market value of a minority interest in that restaurant.  Most supervisors and managers finance the buy-in with a loan from a third-party financial institution.

Each Partner Drive-In usually purchases equipment with funds borrowed from Sonic at competitive rates.  In most cases, Sonic also owns or leases the land and building and guarantees any third-party lease entered into for the site.

Partner Drive-In Data.  The following table provides certain financial information relating to Partner Drive-Ins and the number of Partner Drive-Ins opened and closed during the past five fiscal years.

   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
   
2006
   
2005
 
Average Sales per Partner Drive-In (in thousands)
  $ 954     $ 1,007     $ 1,017     $ 980     $ 957  
Number of Partner Drive-Ins:
                                       
Total Open at Beginning of Year
    684       654       623       574       539  
Newly-Opened and Re-Opened
    11       29       29       35       37  
Purchased from Franchisees
    --       18       15       15       4  
Sold to Franchisees(1)
    (205 )     (12 )     (10 )     --       (5 )
Closed
    (15 )     (5 )     (3 )     (1 )     (1 )
Total Open at Year End
    475       684       654       623       574  
 
 
 (1) The large number of drive-ins sold by Sonic in fiscal 2009 reflects the refranchising initiative which Sonic implemented in fiscal 2009 and includes
88 drive-ins in which Sonic retained a minority interest.

Franchise Program

General.  As of August 31, 2009, we had 3,069 Franchise Drive-Ins in operation.  A large number of successful multi-unit franchisee groups have developed during the Sonic system’s 56 years of operation.  Those franchisees continue to develop new Franchise Drive-Ins in their franchise territories either through area development agreements or single-site development.  Our franchisees opened 130 Franchise Drive-Ins during fiscal year 2009.  We consider our franchisees a vital part of our continued growth and believe our relationship with our franchisees is good.
 
4


Franchise Agreements.  For traditional drive-ins, the current franchise agreement provides for an initial franchise fee of $45,000 per drive-in, a royalty fee of up to 5% of gross sales on a graduated percentage basis, advertising fees of up to 5.9% of gross sales, and a 20-year term.  For fiscal year 2009, Sonic’s average royalty rate was equal to 3.87 %.

Area Development Agreements.  We use area development agreements to facilitate the planned expansion of the Sonic Drive-In restaurant chain through multiple unit development.  While many existing franchisees continue to expand on a single drive-in basis, approximately 88% of the new Franchise Drive-Ins opened during fiscal year 2009 occurred as a result of then-existing area development agreements.  Each area development agreement gives a developer the exclusive right to construct, own, and operate Sonic Drive-Ins within a defined area.  In exchange, each developer agrees to open a minimum number of Sonic Drive-Ins in the area within a prescribed time period.

During fiscal year 2009, we entered into nine new area development agreements calling for the opening of 104 Franchise Drive-Ins and amended seven existing area development agreements calling for the opening of an additional 37 Franchise Drive-Ins, all during the next seven years.  We currently have more than 150 area development agreements in effect, calling for the development of approximately 970 Sonic Drive-Ins during the next seven years. We cannot give any assurance that our franchisees will achieve that number of new Franchise Drive-Ins during the next seven years.  Of the 196 Franchise Drive-Ins scheduled to open during fiscal year 2009 under area development agreements in place at the beginning of that fiscal year, 115 or 59% opened during the period.  During fiscal year 2009, we terminated 14 of the 170 area development agreements existing at the beginning of the fiscal year.  The terminated area development agreements called for the opening of 41 Franchise Drive-Ins in fiscal year 2009 and an additional 24 Franchise Drive-Ins in the next seven fiscal years.  All of these terminations were as a result of the franchisee failing to meet the development schedule under the area development agreement.

In addition to the area development agreement commitments, during fiscal 2007, existing franchisees purchased options to develop drive-ins, which allow them to open new drive-ins under an older form of license agreement with a lower franchise fee and royalty rate, rather than the current form of license agreement.  As of August 31, 2009, 264 options remained outstanding.  The development options and area development agreements together reflect a total development pipeline of 1,234 drive-ins in the next seven fiscal years.

Beginning in fiscal 2010, we have also offered development incentives to our franchisees.  These incentives include (i) a reduced franchise fee for the second drive-in and waiver of the franchise fee for subsequent drive-ins opened by the franchisee in fiscal 2010; and (ii) for all drive-ins opened in “developing markets” before March 31, 2011, waiver of the franchise fee, waiver of the royalty fees during the first five years of operation and payment of an additional advertising contribution during the fourth and fifth years of operation.  “Developing markets” are those markets where the penetration of Sonic Drive-Ins (as measured by population per restaurant, advertising level and share of restaurant spending) has not yet reached the level of market maturity established by management.

Franchise Drive-In Development.  We assist each franchisee in selecting sites and developing Sonic Drive-Ins.  Each franchisee has responsibility for selecting the franchisee’s drive-in location but must obtain our approval of each Sonic Drive-In design and each location based on accessibility and visibility of the site and targeted demographic factors, including population density, income, age, and traffic.  We provide our franchisees with the physical specifications for the typical Sonic Drive-In.

Franchisee Financing.  Other than the agreements described below, we do not generally provide financing to franchisees or guarantee loans to franchisees made by third-parties.

We had an agreement with GE Capital Franchise Finance Corporation (“GEC”) pursuant to which GEC made loans to existing Sonic franchisees who met certain underwriting criteria set by GEC.  Under the terms of the agreement with GEC, Sonic provided a guaranty of 10% of the outstanding balance of a loan from GEC to the Sonic franchisee.  The portions of loans made by GEC to Sonic franchisees that are guaranteed by the Company total $13.0 million as of August 31, 2009.  We ceased guaranteeing new loans made under the program during fiscal year 2002 and have not been required to make any payments under our agreement with GEC.

We have an agreement with Irwin Franchise Capital Corporation (“IFCC”) pursuant to which IFCC has agreed to make loans to existing Sonic franchisees who meet certain underwriting criteria set by IFCC to finance the equipment and improvements for our retrofit program in which significant trade dress modifications are being made to Sonic Drive-Ins.  Under the terms of the agreement with IFCC, we will provide a guaranty to IFCC of the greater of (i) 5% of the outstanding balance of a loan from IFCC to the Sonic franchisee or (ii) $250,000, provided that in no event will our maximum liability to IFCC exceed $3.75 million in the aggregate.  As of August 31, 2009, the total amount guaranteed under the IFCC agreement was $1.3 million.

5


Franchise Advisory Council.  Our Franchise Advisory Council provides advice, counsel, and input to Sonic on important issues impacting the business, such as marketing and promotions, operations, purchasing, building design, human resources, technology, and new products.  The Franchise Advisory Council currently consists of 20 members selected by Sonic.  We have six executive committee members who are selected at large, 12 regional members representing four defined regions of the country, and two at large members representing new franchisees and smaller operators.  We have four Franchise Advisory Council task groups comprised of approximately 50 members who serve three-year terms and lend support on individual key priorities.

Franchise Drive-In Data.  The following table provides certain financial information relating to Franchise Drive-Ins and the number of Franchise Drive-Ins opened, purchased from or sold to Sonic, and closed during Sonic’s last five fiscal years.

   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
   
2006
   
2005
 
Average Sales Per Franchise Drive-In   (in thousands)
  $ 1,122     $ 1,154     $ 1,132     $ 1,092     $ 1,039  
Number of Franchise Drive-Ins:
                                       
Total Open at Beginning of Year
    2,791       2,689       2,565       2,465       2,346  
New Franchise Drive-Ins
    130       140       146       138       138  
Sold to the Company
    --       (18 )     (15 )     (15 )     (4 )
Purchased from the Company(1)
    205       12       10       --       5  
Closed and Terminated,
                                       
Net of Re-openings
    (57 )     (32 )     (17 )     (23 )     (20 )
Total Open at Year End
    3,069       2,791       2,689       2,565       2,465  

 
 (1) The large number of drive-ins sold by Sonic in fiscal 2009 reflects the refranchising initiative which Sonic implemented in fiscal 2009 and includes
88 drive-ins in which Sonic retained a minority interest.

Competition

We compete in the restaurant industry, a highly competitive industry in terms of price, service, location, and food quality.  The restaurant industry is often affected by changes in consumer trends, economic conditions, demographics, traffic patterns, and concerns about the nutritional content of quick-service foods.  We compete on the basis of speed and quality of service, method of food preparation (made-to-order), food quality and variety, signature food items, and limited-time promotions.  The quality of service, featuring Sonic carhops, constitutes one of our primary marketable points of difference from the competition.  There are many well-established competitors with substantially greater financial and other resources.  These competitors include a large number of national, regional, and local food services, including quick-service restaurants and casual dining restaurants.  A significant change in pricing or other marketing strategies by one or more of those competitors could have an adverse impact on Sonic’s sales, earnings, and growth.  In selling franchises, we also compete with many franchisors of quick-service and other restaurants and other business opportunities.

Seasonality

Our results during Sonic’s second fiscal quarter (the months of December, January and February) generally are lower than other quarters because of the lower temperatures in the locations of a number of Partner Drive-Ins and Franchise Drive-Ins, which tends to reduce customer visits to our drive-ins.

Employees

As of August 31, 2009, we had 350 full-time corporate employees.  This number does not include the approximately 13,800 full-time and part-time employees employed by separate partnerships and limited liability companies that operate our Partner Drive-Ins or the supervisors and managers of the Partner Drive-Ins who own a minority interest in the separate partnerships or limited liability companies.

None of our employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.  We believe that we have good labor relations with our employees.

6


Intellectual Property

Sonic owns or is licensed to use valuable intellectual property including trademarks, service marks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets and other proprietary information, including the “Sonic” logo and trademark, which are of material importance to our business.  Depending on the jurisdiction, trademarks and service marks generally are valid as long as they are used and/or registered.  Patents, copyrights and licenses are of varying durations.

Customers

Our business is not dependent upon either a single customer or small group of customers.

Government Contracts

No portion of our business is subject to renegotiation of profits or termination of contracts or subcontracts at the election of the U.S. government.

Environmental Matters

We are not aware of any federal, state or local environmental laws or regulations that will materially affect our earnings or competitive position or result in material capital expenditures. However, we cannot predict the effect on operations of possible future environmental legislation or regulations. During fiscal year 2009, there were no material capital expenditures for environmental control facilities, and no such material expenditures are anticipated.

Available Information

We maintain a website with the address of www.sonicdrivein.com.  Copies of the Company’s reports filed with, or furnished to, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Forms 10-K, 10-Q, and 8-K and any amendments to such reports are available for viewing and copying at such website, free of charge, as soon as reasonably practicable after filing such material with, or furnishing it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission.  In addition, copies of Sonic’s corporate governance materials, including the Corporate Governance Guidelines, Audit Committee Charter, Compensation Committee Charter, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter, Code of Ethics for Financial Officers, and Code of Business Conduct and Ethics are available for viewing and copying at the website, free of charge.

Item 1A.  Risk Factors
 
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  A forward-looking statement is neither a prediction nor a guarantee of future events or circumstances, and those future events or circumstances may not occur.  Investors should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this report.  These forward-looking statements are all based on currently available operating, financial and competitive information and are subject to various risks and uncertainties.  Our actual future results and trends may differ materially depending on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the risks and uncertainties discussed below.  Accordingly, such forward-looking statements do not purport to be predictions of future events or circumstances and may not be realized.  For these reasons, you should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.  We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise them, except as may be required by law.
 
Events reported in the media, such as incidents involving food-borne illnesses or food tampering, whether or not accurate, can cause damage to our reputation and rapidly affect sales and profitability.
 
Reports, whether true or not, of food-borne illnesses, such as e-coli, avian flu, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as mad cow disease), hepatitis A or salmonella, and injuries caused by food tampering have in the past severely injured the reputations of participants in the restaurant industry and could in the future affect us.  The potential for terrorism of our nation’s food supply also exists and, if such an event occurs, it could have a negative impact on our brand’s reputation and could severely hurt sales, revenues, and profits.
 
 Our brand’s reputation is an important asset to the business; as a result, anything that damages our brand’s reputation could immediately and severely hurt sales, revenues, and profits.  If customers become ill from food-borne illnesses or food tampering, we could also be forced to temporarily close some, or all, Sonic Drive-Ins.  In addition, instances of food-borne illnesses or food tampering occurring at the restaurants of competitors could, by resulting in negative publicity about the restaurant industry, adversely affect our sales on a local, regional, or

7

 
national basis.  A decrease in customer traffic as a result of these health concerns or negative publicity, or as a result of a temporary closure of any Sonic Drive-Ins, could materially harm our brand, sales, and profitability.
The restaurant industry is highly competitive, and that competition could lower our revenues, margins, and market share.
 
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive with respect to price, service, location, personnel, dietary trends, including nutritional content of quick-service foods, and quality of food, and is often affected by changes in consumer tastes and preferences, economic conditions, population, and traffic patterns.  We compete with international, regional and local restaurants, some of which operate more restaurants and have greater financial resources.  We compete primarily through the quality, price, variety, and value of food products offered. Other key competitive factors include the number and location of restaurants, quality and speed of service, attractiveness of facilities, effectiveness of advertising and marketing programs, and new product development by us and our competitors.  Some of our competitors have substantially larger marketing budgets, which may provide them with a competitive advantage.  In addition, our system competes within the quick-service restaurant industry not only for customers but also for management and hourly employees, suitable real estate sites, and qualified franchisees.
 
Changing dietary preferences may cause consumers to avoid our products in favor of alternative foods.
 
The restaurant industry is affected by consumer preferences and perceptions.  Although we monitor these changing preferences and strive to adapt to meet changing consumer needs, growth of our brand and, ultimately, system-wide sales depend on the sustained demand for our products.  If dietary preferences and perceptions cause consumers to avoid certain products offered by Sonic Drive-Ins in favor of different foods, demand for our products may be reduced, and our business could be harmed.
 
Our earnings and business growth strategy depends in large part on the success of our franchisees, who exercise independent control of their businesses.
 
We have significantly increased the percentage of restaurants owned and operated by our franchisees.  A portion of our earnings comes from royalties, rents and other amounts paid by our franchisees.  Franchisees are independent contractors, and their employees are not our employees.  We provide training and support to, and monitor the operations of, our franchisees, but the quality of their drive-in operations may be diminished by any number of factors beyond our control.  Franchisees may not successfully operate drive-ins in a manner consistent with our high standards and requirements, and franchisees may not hire and train qualified managers and other restaurant personnel.  Any operational shortcoming of a Franchise Drive-In is likely to be attributed by consumers to the entire Sonic brand, thus damaging our reputation and potentially affecting revenues and profitability.
 
Changes in economic, market and other conditions could adversely affect Sonic and its franchisees, and thereby Sonic’s operating results.
 
The quick-service restaurant industry is affected by changes in economic conditions, consumer tastes and preferences and spending patterns, demographic trends, consumer perceptions of food safety, weather, traffic patterns, the type, number and location of competing restaurants, and the effects of war or terrorist activities and any governmental responses thereto.  Factors such as interest rates, inflation, gasoline prices, food costs, labor and benefit costs, legal claims, and the availability of management and hourly employees also affect restaurant operations and administrative expenses.  Economic conditions, including interest rates and other government policies impacting land and construction costs and the cost and availability of borrowed funds, affect our ability and our franchisees’ ability to finance new restaurant development, improvements and additions to existing restaurants, and the acquisition of restaurants from, and sale of restaurants to, franchisees.  Inflation can cause increased food, labor and benefits costs and can increase our operating expenses.  As operating expenses increase, we recover increased costs by increasing menu prices, to the extent permitted by competition, or by implementing alternative products or cost reduction procedures.  We cannot ensure, however, that we will be able to recover increases in operating expenses in this manner.
 
Our financial results may fluctuate depending on various factors, many of which are beyond our control.
 
Our sales and operating results can vary from quarter to quarter and year to year depending on various factors, many of which are beyond our control.  Certain events and factors may directly and immediately decrease demand for our products.  If customer demand decreases rapidly, our results of operations would also decline precipitously.  These events and factors include:
 
 
variations in the timing and volume of Sonic Drive-Ins’ sales;

8


 
sales promotions by Sonic and its competitors;
 
changes in average same-store sales and customer visits;
 
variations in the price, availability and shipping costs of supplies such as food products;
 
seasonal effects on demand for Sonic’s products;
 
unexpected slowdowns in new drive-in development efforts;
 
changes in competitive and economic conditions generally including increases in energy costs;
 
changes in the cost or availability of ingredients or labor;
 
weather and other acts of God; and
 
changes in the number of franchise agreement renewals.

Our profitability may be adversely affected by increases in energy costs.

Our success depends in part on our ability to absorb increases in energy costs.  Various regions of the United States in which we operate multiple drive-ins have experienced in the recent past significant increases in energy prices.  If these increases occur again, they would have an adverse effect on our profitability.
 
Shortages or interruptions in the supply or delivery of perishable food products or rapid price increases could adversely affect our operating results.
 
 We are dependent on frequent deliveries of perishable food products that meet certain specifications.  Shortages or interruptions in the supply of perishable food products may be caused by unanticipated demand, problems in production or distribution, acts of terrorism, financial or other difficulties of suppliers, disease or food-borne illnesses, inclement weather or other conditions.  We purchase large quantities of food and supplies, which can be subject to significant price fluctuations due to seasonal shifts, climate conditions, industry demand, energy costs, changes in international commodity markets and other factors.  These shortages or rapid price increases could adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of ingredients, which would likely lower revenues and reduce our profitability.
 
Failure to successfully implement our growth strategy could reduce, or reduce the growth of, our revenue and net income.
 
We plan to increase the number of Sonic Drive-Ins, but may not be able to achieve our growth objectives, and any new drive-ins may not be profitable.  The opening and success of drive-ins depend on various factors, including:

 
competition from other restaurants in current and future markets;
 
the degree of saturation in existing markets;
 
consumer interest in the Sonic brand;
 
the identification and availability of suitable and economically viable locations;
 
sales levels at existing drive-ins;
 
the negotiation of acceptable lease or purchase terms for new locations;
 
permitting and regulatory compliance;
 
the cost and availability of construction resources;
 
the ability to meet construction schedules;
 
the availability of qualified franchisees and their financial and other development capabilities;the cost and availability of and delays in financing;
 
the ability to hire and train qualified management personnel;
 
weather; and
 
general economic and business conditions.
 
If we are unable to open as many new drive-ins as planned, if the drive-ins are less profitable than anticipated or if we are otherwise unable to successfully implement our growth strategy, revenue and profitability may grow more slowly or even decrease.
 
Our outstanding and future leverage could have an effect on our operations.
 
On December 20, 2006, the Company closed on a securitized financing facility comprised of a $600 million fixed rate term loan and a $200 million variable rate revolving credit facility.  As of August 31, 2009, we had $511 million in outstanding debt under the fixed rate note at an interest rate of 5.7% and $187.3 million outstanding under the variable rate note at an interest rate of 1.4%.

9

 
Our increased leverage could have the following consequences:

 
We may be more vulnerable in the event of deterioration in our business, in the restaurant industry or in the economy generally.  In addition, we may be limited in our flexibility in planning for or reacting to changes in our business and the industry in which we operate.
 
We may be required to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow to the payment of interest on our indebtedness, which could reduce the amount of funds available for operations or development of new Partner Drive-Ins and thus place us at a competitive disadvantage as compared with competitors that are less leveraged.
 
From time to time, we may engage in various capital markets, bank credit and other financing activities to meet our cash requirements.  We may have difficulty obtaining additional financing at economically acceptable interest rates.
 
Our existing and future debt obligations may contain certain negative covenants including limitations on liens, consolidations and mergers, indebtedness, capital expenditures, asset dispositions, sale-leaseback transactions, stock repurchases and transactions with affiliates, which may reduce our flexibility in responding to changing business and economic conditions.
 
Our debt obligations are subject to customary rapid amortization events and events of default.  Although management does not anticipate an event of default or any other event of noncompliance with the provisions of the notes, if such an event occurred, the unpaid amounts outstanding could become immediately due and payable.
 
The third-party insurance company that provides credit enhancements in the form of financial guaranties of our fixed and variable rate note payments has been the subject of credit rating downgrades by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, which ratings were CC and Caa2, respectively, at October 29, 2009.  We are unable to determine whether additional downgrades may occur and what impact prior downgrades have had or additional downgrades would have on our insurer’s financial condition.  If the insurance company were to become the subject of insolvency or similar proceedings, our lenders would not be required to fund additional advances on our variable rate notes.  In addition, an event of default would occur if: (i) the insurance company were to become the subject of insolvency or similar proceedings and (ii) the insurance policy were not continued or sold to a third party (who would assume the insurance company’s obligations under the policy), but instead were terminated or canceled as a result of those proceedings. In an event of default, all unpaid amounts under the fixed and variable rate notes could become immediately due and payable only at the direction or consent of holders with a majority of the outstanding principal.  Such acceleration of our debt could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity if we were unable to negotiate mutually acceptable new terms with our lenders or if alternate funding were not available to us.
 
Sonic Drive-Ins are subject to health, employment, environmental and other government regulations, and failure to comply with existing or future government regulations could expose us to litigation, damage to our reputation and lower profits.
 
Sonic and its franchisees are subject to various federal, state and local laws affecting their businesses.  The successful development and operation of restaurants depends to a significant extent on the selection and acquisition of suitable sites, which are subject to zoning, land use (including the placement of drive-thru windows), environmental (including litter), traffic and other regulations.  More stringent requirements of local and state governmental bodies with respect to zoning, land use and environmental factors could delay, prevent or make cost prohibitive the continuing operations of an existing restaurant or the development of new restaurants in particular locations.  Restaurant operations are also subject to licensing and regulation by state and local departments relating to health, food preparation, sanitation and safety standards, federal and state labor and immigration laws (including applicable minimum wage requirements, overtime, working and safety conditions and work authorization requirements), federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination and other laws regulating the design and operation of facilities, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.  If we fail to comply with any of these laws, we may be subject to governmental action or litigation, and our reputation could be accordingly harmed.  Injury to our reputation would, in turn, likely reduce revenues and profits.
 
In recent years, there has been an increased legislative, regulatory and consumer focus on nutrition and advertising practices in the food industry, particularly among restaurants.  As a result, we may become subject to regulatory initiatives in the area of nutritional content, disclosure or advertising, such as requirements to provide information about the nutritional content of our food products, which could increase expenses.  The operation of our franchise system is also subject to franchise laws and regulations enacted by a number of states and rules promulgated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.  Any future legislation regulating franchise relationships may negatively affect our operations, particularly our relationship with our franchisees.  Failure to comply with new or
 
existing franchise laws and regulations in any jurisdiction or to obtain required government approvals could result in a ban or temporary suspension on future franchise sales.  Changes in applicable accounting rules imposed by governmental regulators or private governing bodies could also affect our reported results of operations.
 
We are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs such matters as minimum wage, overtime and other working conditions, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act, various family leave mandates and a variety of other laws enacted, or rules and regulations promulgated, by federal, state and local governmental authorities that govern these and other employment matters.  We have experienced and expect further increases in payroll expenses as a result of government-mandated increases in the minimum wage, and although such increases are not expected to be material, there may be material increases in the future.  Enactment and enforcement of various federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations on immigration and labor organizations may adversely impact the availability and costs of labor for our restaurants in a particular area or across the United States.  In addition, our vendors may be affected by higher minimum wage standards or availability of labor, which may increase the price of goods and services they supply to us.

Litigation from customers, franchisees, employees and others could harm our reputation and impact operating results.
 
Claims of illness or injury relating to food content, food quality or food handling are common in the quick-service restaurant industry.  In addition, class action lawsuits have been filed, and may continue to be filed, against various quick-service restaurants alleging, among other things, that quick-service restaurants have failed to disclose the health risks associated with foods we serve and that quick-service restaurants’ marketing practices have encouraged obesity and other health issues.  In addition to decreasing our sales and profitability and diverting management resources, adverse publicity or a substantial judgment against us could negatively impact our reputation, hindering the ability to attract and retain qualified franchisees and grow the business.
 
Further, we may be subject to employee, franchisee and other claims in the future based on, among other things, discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination and wage, rest break and meal break issues, including those relating to overtime compensation.
 
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could decrease the value of our brand and products.
 
The success of our business depends on the continued ability to use existing trademarks, service marks and other components of our brand in order to increase brand awareness and further develop branded products.  All of the steps we have taken to protect our intellectual property may not be adequate.
 
Our reputation and business could be materially harmed as a result of data breaches.
 
Unauthorized intrusion into portions of our computer systems or those of our franchisees that process and store information related to customer transactions may result in the theft of customer data.  We rely on proprietary and commercially available systems, software, tools and monitoring to provide security for processing, transmission and storage of confidential customer information, such as payment card and personal information.  Further, the systems currently used for transmission and approval of payment card transactions, and the technology utilized in payment cards themselves, all of which can put payment card data at risk, are determined and legally mandated by payment card industry standards, not by us.  Improper activities by third-parties, advances in computer and software capabilities and encryption technology, new tools and discoveries and other events or developments may facilitate or result in a compromise or breach of our or our franchisees’ computer systems.  Any such compromises or breaches could cause interruptions in our operations and damage to our reputation, subject us to costs and liabilities and hurt sales, revenues and profits.
 
Disruptions in the financial markets may adversely impact the availability and cost of credit and consumer spending patterns.
 
The disruptions to the financial markets and continuing economic downturn have adversely impacted the availability of credit already arranged and the availability and cost of credit in the future.  The disruptions in the financial markets also had an adverse effect on the economy, which has negatively impacted consumer spending patterns.  There can be no assurance that various governmental responses to the disruptions in the financial markets will restore consumer confidence, stabilize the markets or increase liquidity or the availability of credit.

11

 
Ownership and leasing of significant amounts of real estate exposes us to possible liabilities and losses.
 
We own or lease the land and building for all Partner Drive-Ins.  Accordingly, we are subject to all of the risks associated with owning and leasing real estate.  In particular, the value of our assets could decrease and our costs could increase because of changes in the investment climate for real estate, demographic trends and supply or demand for the use of our drive-ins, which may result from competition from similar restaurants in the area, as well as liability for environmental conditions.  We generally cannot cancel the leases, so if an existing or future Sonic Drive-In is not profitable, and we decide to close it, we may nonetheless be committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease including, among other things, paying the base rent for the balance of the lease term.  In addition, as each of the leases expires, we may fail to negotiate renewals, either on commercially acceptable terms or at all, which could cause us to close drive-ins in desirable locations.
 
Catastrophic events may disrupt our business.
 
Unforeseen events, or the prospect of such events, including war, terrorism and other international conflicts, public health issues including health epidemics or pandemics, and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or other adverse weather and climate conditions, whether occurring in the United States or abroad, could disrupt our operations, disrupt the operations of franchisees, suppliers or customers, or result in political or economic instability.  These events could reduce demand for our products or make it difficult or impossible to receive products from suppliers.

Item 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

Item 2.  Properties

Of the 475 Partner Drive-Ins operating as of August 31, 2009, we operated 262 of them on property leased from third-parties and 213 of them on property we own.  The leases expire on dates ranging from 2010 to 2028, with the majority of the leases providing for renewal options.  All leases provide for specified monthly rental payments, and some of the leases call for additional rentals based on sales volume.  All leases require Sonic to maintain the property and pay the cost of insurance and taxes.  We also own the real property on which 166 Franchise Drive-Ins are operated.  These leases for Franchise Drive-Ins expire on dates ranging from 2012 to 2029, with the majority of the leases providing for renewal options.  The majority of the leases for Franchise Drive-Ins provide for percentage rent based on sales volume, with a minimum base rent.    These leases generally require the franchisee to maintain the property and pay the costs of insurance and taxes.

Our corporate headquarters are located in the Bricktown district of downtown Oklahoma City.  We have a 15-year lease to occupy approximately 83,000 square feet.  The lease expires in November 2018 and has two five-year renewal options.  Sonic believes its properties are suitable for the purposes for which they are being used.

Item 3.  Legal Proceedings

The Company is involved in various legal proceedings and has certain unresolved claims pending.  Based on the information currently available, management believes that all claims currently pending are either covered by insurance or would not have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business or financial condition.

Item 4.  Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders

Sonic did not submit any matter during the fourth quarter of the Company’s last fiscal year to a vote of Sonic’s stockholders, through the solicitation of proxies or otherwise.

12


Item 4A.  Executive Officers of the Company

Identification of Executive Officers

The following table identifies the executive officers of the Company:

      Executive
Name
Age
Position
Officer Since
       
J. Clifford Hudson
54
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer
June 1985
       
W. Scott McLain
47
President of Sonic Corp. and President of Sonic Industries Services Inc.
April 1996
       
Stephen C. Vaughan
43
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
January 1996
       
Omar Janjua
51
President of Sonic Restaurants, Inc.
October 2009
       
Paige S. Bass
40
Vice President, General Counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary
January 2007
       
Carolyn C. Cummins
51
Vice President of Compliance and Corporate Secretary
April 2004
       
Terry D. Harryman
44
Vice President and Controller
January 1999
       
Claudia San Pedro
40
Vice President of Investor Relations and Brand Strategies and Treasurer
January 2007
       
Sharon T. Strickland
56
Vice President of People
January 2008

Business Experience

The following sets forth the business experience of the executive officers of the Company for at least the past five years:

J. Clifford Hudson has served as the Company’s Chairman of the Board since January 2000 and Chief Executive Officer since April 1995.  Mr. Hudson served as President of the Company from April 1995 to January 2000 and reassumed that position from November 2004 until May 2008.  He has served in various other offices with the Company since 1984.  Mr. Hudson has served as a Director of the Company since 1993.  Mr. Hudson has served on the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation since January 2006 and on the Board of Trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since January 2001, where he now serves as Chairman of the Board.

W. Scott McLain has served as President of the Company since May 2008.  He also has served as President of Sonic Industries Services Inc. since September 2004.  He served as Executive Vice President of the Company from November 2004 until May 2008.  He served as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from January 2004 until November 2004 and as the Company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from January 2000 until January 2004.  Mr. McLain joined the Company in 1996.

Stephen C. Vaughan has served as Executive Vice President of the Company and Chief Financial Officer since August 2008 and was the Company’s Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from November 2004 until August 2008.  Mr. Vaughan also served as Treasurer of the Company from November 2001 until April 2005.  He joined the Company in 1992.

Omar Janjua has served as President of Sonic Restaurants, Inc. since September 2009.  He served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for The Steak n Shake Company from June 2007 to September 2009.  Prior to joining Steak n Shake, Mr. Janjua worked for 18 years with Yum Brands, Inc. in its Pizza Hut operations in various positions of increasing responsibility, lastly as Vice President of Company Operations.

Paige S. Bass has served as Vice President and General Counsel of the Company since January 2007 and has also served as Assistant Corporate Secretary since October 2008.  Ms. Bass joined the Company as Associate
 
General Counsel in April 2004.  Prior to joining the Company, Ms. Bass was employed seven years as an associate with the law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
 
Carolyn C. Cummins has served as the Company’s Corporate Secretary since January 2007 and as the Company’s Vice President of Compliance since April 2004.  Ms. Cummins joined the Company as Assistant General Counsel in January 1999.

Terry D. Harryman has served as Vice President of the Company since January 2008 and as the Company’s Controller since January 1999.  Mr. Harryman has also served as the Controller of Sonic Restaurants, Inc. and Sonic Industries Services Inc. since January 2002.  Mr. Harryman joined the Company in 1996.

Claudia San Pedro has served as Vice President of Investor Relations and Brand Strategies of the Company since October 2009.  She served as Vice President of Investor Relations of the Company from January 2007 until October 2009.  She has also served as Treasurer of the Company since January 2007 and as Treasurer of Sonic Industries Services Inc. and Sonic Restaurants, Inc. since November 2006.  She served as the Director of the Oklahoma Office of State Finance from June 2005 through November 2006.  From July 2003 to May 2005, Ms. San Pedro served as the Budget Division Director for the Office of State Finance.

Sharon T. Strickland has served as Vice President of People of the Company since January 2008.  She served as Senior Director of Potential from August 2005 until January 2008.  Ms. Strickland was a Human Resources Advisor for Kerr-McGee Corporation from April 2004 until August 2005.
 
PART II

Item 5.  Market for the Company’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Market Information

The Company’s common stock trades on the Nasdaq National Market (“Nasdaq”) under the symbol “SONC.” The following table sets forth the high and low sales price for the Company’s common stock during each fiscal quarter within the two most recent fiscal years as reported on Nasdaq.

Fiscal Year Ended
August 31, 2009
 
High
   
Low
 
Fiscal Year Ended
August 31, 2008
 
High
   
Low
 
First Quarter
  $ 18.19     $ 5.78  
First Quarter
  $ 26.19     $ 21.57  
Second Quarter
  $ 12.86     $ 7.35  
Second Quarter
  $ 24.65     $ 18.53  
Third Quarter
  $ 12.09     $ 6.05  
Third Quarter
  $ 23.33     $ 18.54  
Fourth Quarter
  $ 11.75     $ 8.34  
Fourth Quarter
  $ 19.38     $ 12.50  

Stockholders

As of October 15, 2009, the Company had 678 record holders of its common stock.

Dividends

The Company did not pay any cash dividends on its common stock during its two most recent fiscal years and does not intend to pay any dividends in the foreseeable future as profits are reinvested in the Company to fund expansion of its business, repurchases of the Company’s common stock, and payments under the Company’s financing arrangements.  As in the past, future payment of dividends will be considered after reviewing, among other factors, returns to stockholders, profitability expectations and financing needs.

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

None.

 
14

 
Item 6.  Selected Financial Data

The following table sets forth selected financial data regarding the Company’s financial condition and operating results.  One should read the following information in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” below, and the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements included elsewhere in this report.

15


Selected Financial Data
(In thousands, except per share data)

   
Year ended August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
   
2006(1)
   
2005(1)
 
                               
Income Statement Data:
                             
Partner Drive-In sales
  $ 567,436     $ 671,151     $ 646,915     $ 585,832     $ 525,988  
Franchise Drive-Ins:
                                       
Franchise royalties
    126,706       121,944       111,052       98,163       88,027  
Franchise fees
    5,006       5,167       4,574       4,747       4,311  
Gain on sale of Partner Drive-Ins
    13,154       3,044       732    
   
 
Other
    6,487       3,407       7,196       4,520       4,740  
Total revenues
    718,789       804,713       770,469       693,262       623,066  
Cost of Partner Drive-In sales
    480,227       548,102       520,176       468,627       421,906  
Selling, general and administrative
    63,358       61,179       58,736       52,048       47,503  
Depreciation and amortization
    48,064       50,653       45,103       40,696       35,821  
Provision for impairment of long-lived assets
    11,163       571       1,165       264       387  
Total expenses
    602,812       660,505       625,180       561,635       505,617  
Income from operations
    115,977       144,208       145,289       131,627       117,449  
Interest expense, net
    35,657       47,927       44,406       7,578       5,785  
Income before income taxes
  $ 80,320     $ 96,281     $ 100,883     $ 124,049     $ 111,664  
Net income
  $ 49,442     $ 60,319     $ 64,192     $ 78,705     $ 70,443  
                                         
Income per share (2):
                                       
Basic
  $ 0.81     $ 1.00     $ 0.94     $ 0.91     $ 0.78  
Diluted
  $ 0.81     $ 0.97     $ 0.91     $ 0.88     $ 0.75  
Weighted average shares used in calculation (2):
                                       
Basic
    60,761       60,403       68,019       86,260       89,992  
Diluted
    61,238       62,270       70,592       89,239       93,647  
 
Balance Sheet Data:
                             
Working capital (deficit)
  $ 84,813     $ (13,115 )   $ (40,784 )   $ (35,585 )   $ (30,093 )
Property, equipment and capital leases, net
    523,938       586,245       529,993       477,054       422,825  
Total assets
    849,041       836,312       758,520       638,018       563,316  
Obligations under capital leases (including current portion)
    39,461       37,385       39,318       36,625       38,525  
Long-term debt (including current portion)
    699,550       759,422       710,743       122,399       60,195  
Stockholders’ equity (deficit)
    (4,268 )     (64,116 )     (106,802 )     391,693       387,917  
Cash dividends declared per common share
 
   
   
   
   
 
 
(1)
 
 
Previously reported prior-year results have been adjusted to implement SFAS 123R on a modified retrospective basis.
(2)
 
Adjusted for a three-for-two stock split in 2006.

16


Item 7.  Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Overview

Description of the Business.  Sonic operates and franchises the largest chain of drive-in restaurants in the United States.  As of August 31, 2009, the Sonic system was comprised of 3,544 drive-ins, of which 13% were Partner Drive-Ins and 87% were Franchise Drive-Ins.  Sonic Drive-Ins feature signature menu items such as specialty drinks and frozen desserts, made-to-order sandwiches and a unique breakfast menu.  The Company derives revenues primarily from Partner Drive-In sales and royalties from franchisees.  The Company also receives revenues from initial franchise fees and, to a lesser extent, from the selling and leasing of signs and real estate.

Costs of Partner Drive-In sales, including minority interest in earnings of drive-ins, relate directly to Partner Drive-In sales.  Other expenses, such as depreciation, amortization, and general and administrative expenses, relate to the Company’s franchising operations, as well as Partner Drive-In operations.  Our revenues and expenses are directly affected by the number and sales volumes of Partner Drive-Ins.  Our revenues and, to a lesser extent, expenses also are affected by the number and sales volumes of Franchise Drive-Ins.  Initial franchise fees and franchise royalties are directly affected by the number of Franchise Drive-In openings.

Overview of Business Performance.  Fiscal year 2009 was a challenging year marked by economic disruptions and constrained consumer discretionary spending.  In response to these and other challenges, we made progress against a number of initiatives during the year.  In January 2009, we introduced the Sonic Everyday Value Menu featuring 11 items for $1.  We also made significant progress against our refranchising initiative evidenced by the sale of 205 Partner Drive-Ins to franchisees during the year.   Partner Drive-Ins now comprise 13% of the entire system, down from 20% at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Investments by franchisees in new and existing development remained solid throughout the year, with the opening of 130 new drive-ins, the relocation or rebuilding of 46 existing drive-ins, and the completion of 337 retrofits for the fiscal year. We also opened the first Sonic Drive-Ins in several new markets and new states with very strong opening results.

The growth and success of our business is built around implementation of our multi-layered growth strategy, which features the following components:

 
·
Same-store sales growth fueled by increased media expenditures, new product news, improved sales performance of Partner Drive-Ins and product and service differentiation initiatives;
 
·
Expansion of the Sonic brand through new unit growth, particularly by franchisees;
 
·
Increased franchising income stemming from franchisee new unit growth, same-store sales growth and our unique ascending royalty rate; and
 
·
The use of excess cash for shareholder value-enhancing initiatives.

The following table provides information regarding the number of Partner Drive-Ins and Franchise Drive-Ins in operation as of the end of the years indicated as well as the system-wide growth in sales and average unit volume. System-wide information includes both Partner Drive-In and Franchise Drive-In information, which we believe is useful in analyzing the growth of the brand as well as the Company’s revenues since franchisees pay royalties based on a percentage of sales.

17


System-Wide Performance
($ in thousands)

   
Year Ended August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
 
Percentage increase in sales
    0.7 %     5.6 %     8.6 %
                         
System-wide drive-ins in operation (1):
                       
Total at beginning of period
    3,475       3,343       3,188  
Opened
    141       169       175  
Closed (net of re-openings)
    (72 )     (37 )     (20 )
Total at end of period
    3,544       3,475       3,343  
                         
Average sales per drive-in:
  $ 1,093     $ 1,125     $ 1,109  
                         
Change in same-store sales (2):
    (4.3 %)     0.9 %     3.1 %

(1)
Drive-ins that are temporarily closed for various reasons (repairs, remodeling, relocations, etc.) are not considered closed unless the Company determines that they are unlikely to reopen within a reasonable time.
(2)
Represents percentage change for drive-ins open for a minimum of 15 months.

System-wide same-store sales decreased 4.3% during fiscal year 2009 primarily as a result of a decrease in the average check amount.  The decrease in check is consistent with an industry trend of consumers purchasing fewer items per transaction and purchasing lower-priced items, such as items from our Everyday Value Menu.  The Company has initiated strategies to offset this trend including offering a free upgrade to a 44 ounce drink with the purchase of a combo meal during the summer of 2009 and increasing the discount percentage when consumers purchase a combo meal versus the ala carte menu pricing.

 During fiscal year 2009, our system-wide media expenditures were approximately $184 million as compared to $190 million in fiscal year 2008.  Approximately one-half of our media dollars are spent on system-wide marketing fund efforts, which are largely used for network cable television advertising.  Expenditures for national cable advertising increased from approximately $95 million in fiscal year 2008 to approximately $96 million in fiscal year 2009.  Increased network cable advertising provides several benefits including the ability to more effectively target and better reach the cable audience, which surpasses broadcast networks in terms of viewers.  In addition, national cable advertising allows us to bring additional depth to our media and expand our message beyond our traditional emphasis on a single monthly promotion.  The balance of our system-wide media expenditures is focused on local store advertising.  Looking forward, we expect system-wide media expenditures to exceed $178 million in fiscal 2010, with the system-wide marketing fund representing approximately one-half of total media expenditures.

The following table provides information regarding drive-in development across the system.  Retrofits represent investments to upgrade the exterior look of our drive-ins, typically including an upgraded building exterior, new more energy-efficient lighting, a significantly enhanced patio area, and improved menu housings.

   
Year ended August 31,
 
             
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
 
New drive-ins:
                 
Partner
    11       29       29  
Franchise
    130       140       146  
System-wide
    141       169       175  
Rebuilds/relocations:
                       
Partner
    4       5       7  
Franchise
    46       64       35  
System-wide
    50       69       42  
Retrofits, including rebuilds/relocations:
                       
Partner
    24       167       175  
Franchise
    383       800       316  
System-wide
    407       967       491  

18


Results of Operations

Revenues.  The following table sets forth the components of revenue for the reported periods and the relative change between the comparable periods.

Revenues
 
($ in thousands)
 
Year Ended August 31,
 
2009
   
2008
   
Increase/ (Decrease)
   
Percent Increase/ (Decrease)
 
Revenues:
                       
Partner Drive-In sales
  $ 567,436     $ 671,151     $ (103,715 )     (15.5 )%
Franchise revenues:
                               
Franchise royalties
    126,706       121,944       4,762       3.9  
Franchise fees
    5,006       5,167       (161 )     (3.1 )
    Gain on sale of Partner Drive-Ins     13,154       3,044       10,110       332.1  
Other
    6,487       3,407        3,080       90.4  
Total revenues
  $ 718,789     $ 804,713     $ (85,924 )     (10.7 )

Year Ended August 31,
 
2008
   
2007
   
Increase/ (Decrease)
   
Percent Increase/ (Decrease)
 
 Revenues:                        
Partner Drive-In sales
  $ 671,151     $ 646,915     $ 24,236       3.8 %
Franchise revenues:
Franchise royalties
    121,944       111,052       10,892       9.8  
Franchise fees
    5,167       4,574       593       13.0  
   Gain on sale of Partner Drive-Ins
    3,044       732       2,312       315.8  
Other
    3,407       7,196       (3,789 )     (52.7 )
Total revenues
  $ 804,713     $ 770,469     $ 34,244       4.4  

The following table reflects the changes in Partner Drive-In sales and comparable drive-in sales.  It also presents information about average unit volumes and the number of Partner Drive-Ins, which is useful in analyzing the growth of Partner Drive-In sales.
 
Partner Drive-In Sales
 
($ in thousands)
 
   
   
Year Ended August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
 
Partner Drive-In sales
  $ 567,436     $ 671,151     $ 646,915  
Percentage change
    (15.5 %)     3.8 %     10.4 %
                         
Partner Drive-Ins in operation (1):
                       
Total at beginning of period
    684       654       623  
Opened
    11       29       29  
Acquired from (sold to) franchisees, net
    (205 )     6       5  
Closed
    (15 )     (5 )     (3 )
Total at end of period
    475       684       654  
                         
Average sales per Partner Drive-In
  $ 954     $ 1,007     $ 1,017  
Percentage change
    (5.3 %)     (1.0 %)     3.8 %
                         
Change in same-store sales (2)
    (6.4 %)     (1.6 %)     2.5 %

(1)
Drive-ins that are temporarily closed for various reasons (repairs, remodeling, relocations, etc.) are not considered closed unless the Company determines that they are unlikely to reopen within a reasonable time.
(2)
Represents percentage change for drive-ins open for a minimum of 15 months.

19


For fiscal year 2009, the decrease in Partner Drive-In revenues was largely driven by the decline in same-store sales for existing drive-ins and the refranchising of 205 Partner Drive-Ins.  As a result of the refranchising, Partner Drive-Ins now comprise 13% of the entire system compared to 20% in fiscal 2008.

During fiscal year 2009, same-store sales at Partner Drive-Ins declined 6.4%, as compared to the 4.3% decrease for the system.   To counteract this decline, the Company implemented initiatives designed to provide a unique and high quality customer service experience with the goal of improving same-store sales. These initiatives include restructuring the Partner Drive-In organization, simplifying incentive compensation plans for store-level management, implementing a customer service satisfaction measurement tool, and implementing a more effective pricing tool at the drive-in level. These efforts are expected to have a positive impact on Partner Drive-In sales going forward.

During fiscal year 2008, Partner Drive-In sales increased 3.8%.  The increase was comprised of sales from newly constructed drive-ins and acquired drive-ins, offset by the decrease in sales from lower same-store sales.

The following table reflects the growth in franchise income (franchise royalties and franchise fees) as well as franchise sales, average unit volumes and the number of Franchise Drive-Ins.  While we do not record Franchise Drive-In sales as revenues, we believe this information is important in understanding our financial performance since these sales are the basis on which we calculate and record franchise royalties.  This information is also indicative of the financial health of our franchisees.

Franchise Information
 
($ in thousands)
 
   
Year Ended August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
 
Franchise fees and royalties (1)
  $ 131,712     $ 127,111     $ 115,626  
Percentage increase
    3.6 %     9.9 %     12.4 %
                         
Franchise Drive-Ins in operation (2):
                       
Total at beginning of period
    2,791       2,689       2,565  
Opened
    130       140       146  
Acquired from (sold to) Company, net
    205       (6 )     (5 )
Closed
    (57 )     (32 )     (17 )
Total at end of period
    3,069       2,791       2,689  
                         
Franchise Drive-In sales
  $ 3,269,930     $ 3,139,996     $ 2,961,168  
Percentage increase
    4.1 %     6.0 %     8.2 %
                         
Effective royalty rate
    3.87 %     3.88 %     3.75 %
                         
Average sales per Franchise Drive-In
  $ 1,122     $ 1,154     $ 1,132  
                         
Change in same-store sales (3)
    (3.9 %)     1.4 %     3.3 %

(1)
See Revenue Recognition Related to Franchise Fees and Royalties in the Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates section of Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
(2)
Drive-ins that are temporarily closed for various reasons (repairs, remodeling, relocations, etc.) are not considered closed unless the Company determines that they are unlikely to reopen within a reasonable time.
(3)
Represents percentage change for drive-ins open for a minimum of 15 months.

Franchise royalties experienced a 4.1% increase related primarily to royalties from new and refranchised drive-ins.  This increase was offset by the impact of the decline in same-store sales at Franchise Drive-Ins.

Franchisees opened 130 new drive-ins in fiscal year 2009, down from 140 new drive-ins in fiscal year 2008. However, franchisee investment in existing drive-ins remained strong during fiscal year 2009, including the relocation or rebuild of 46 drive-ins (versus 64 in the prior year) and the retrofit of 337 drive-ins (versus 800 in fiscal year 2008).  Franchise fees decreased 3.1% to $5.0 million as a result of fewer Franchise Drive-In openings, in addition to a decline in fees associated with the termination of area development agreements.

The Company recognized a $13.2 million gain from the refranchising of 205 Partner Drive-Ins during fiscal year 2009.  We retained a minority ownership interest in the operations of 88 of the refranchised drive-ins.

20


Other income increased 90.4% to $6.5 million in fiscal year 2009 from $3.4 million in fiscal year 2008.  The increase relates primarily from rental revenue on refranchised drive-ins in which the Company retained ownership of real estate.

Operating Expenses.  The following table presents the overall costs of drive-in operations as a percentage of Partner Drive-In sales.  Minority interest in earnings of Partner Drive-Ins is included as a part of cost of sales, in the table below, since it is directly related to Partner Drive-In operations.
 
Restaurant-Level Margins
 
             
   
Year ended August 31,
   
Percentage points Increase/
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
(Decrease)
 
Costs and expenses:
                 
Partner Drive-Ins:
                 
Food and packaging
    27.6 %     26.5 %     1.1  
Payroll and other employee benefits
    32.2       31.1       1.1  
Minority interest in earnings of Partner Drive-Ins
    2.7       3.3       (0.6 )
Other operating expenses
    22.1       20.9       1.2  
      84.6 %     81.8 %     2.8  
   
 
   
 
 
   
Year ended August 31,
   
Percentage points Increase/
 
     2008      2007    
(Decrease)
 
Costs and expenses:
                       
Partner Drive-Ins:
                       
Food and packaging
    26.5 %     25.7 %     0.8  
Payroll and other employee benefits
    31.1       30.4       0.7  
Minority interest in earnings of Partner Drive-Ins
    3.3       4.1       (0.8 )
Other operating expenses
    20.9       20.1       0.8  
      81.8 %     80.3 %     1.5  

Restaurant-level margins declined overall in fiscal year 2009 as a result of higher commodity prices, higher labor costs driven by minimum wage increases and the de-leveraging impact of lower same-store sales.  These negative impacts were offset by the decline in minority partners’ share of earnings reflecting the margin pressures described above. During the year, the pressure on commodity costs began to subside and turned favorable in the fourth quarter.  Looking forward, the Company expects the commodity costs to be favorable in fiscal year 2010.  However, the minimum wage increase that was effective in July 2009 will continue to pressure labor costs.

Selling, General and Administrative (“SG&A”).  SG&A expenses increased 3.6% to $63.4 million during fiscal year 2009 and 4.2% to $61.2 million during fiscal year 2008 reflecting, in part, ongoing efforts to manage expenses with slowing revenue growth.  Salary and health insurance increases were the primary contributor to the increase for fiscal year 2009.  Stock-based compensation is included in SG&A, and, as of August 31, 2009, total remaining unrecognized compensation cost related to unvested stock-based arrangements was $12.2 million and is expected to be recognized over a weighted average period of 1.1 years.  See Note 1 and Note 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements included in this Form 10-K for additional information regarding our stock-based compensation.

Depreciation and Amortization.  Depreciation and amortization expense decreased 5.1% to $48.1 million in fiscal year 2009 primarily as a result of refranchising Partner Drive-Ins.  Depreciation and amortization expense increased 12.3% to $50.7 million in fiscal year 2008 primarily as a result of additional capital expenditures for newly-constructed Partner Drive-Ins, the retrofit and relocation of existing Partner Drive-Ins and the acquisition of Franchise Drive-Ins.  Capital expenditures during fiscal year 2009 were $36.1 million.  For fiscal year 2010, capital expenditures are expected to be approximately $30 to $40 million.

Provision for Impairment of Long-Lived Assets.  We assess drive-in assets for impairment on a quarterly basis under the guidelines of SFAS 144, “Accounting for the Impairment or Disposal of Long-Lived Assets.”  Based on the Company’s analysis, we recorded a provision of $11.2 million in fiscal year 2009 to reduce the carrying cost
 
of the related operating assets to an estimated fair value.  This provision was attributable to the declining trend in Partner Drive-Ins sales and profits that occurred throughout fiscal year 2009. We continue to perform quarterly analyses of certain underperforming drive-ins. It is reasonably possible that the estimate of future cash flows associated with these drive-ins could change in the future resulting in the need to write-down assets associated with one or more of these drive-ins to fair value.  While it is impossible to predict if future write-downs will occur, we do not believe that future write-downs will impede our ability to grow earnings.
 
Interest Expense and Other Expense, Net.  Net interest expense decreased $5.9 million to $42.0 million in fiscal year 2009 and increased $3.5 million to $47.9 million in fiscal year 2008.  The primary cause for the decrease in fiscal year 2009 is the $6.4 million gain from the early extinguishment of debt that resulted from purchasing $25.0 million of the Company’s fixed rate notes at a discount.  Excluding the gain, the decrease in net interest expense relates to the reduction in debt due to scheduled amortization payments on our fixed rate notes and a declining rate on our variable rate notes.  The increase in fiscal year 2008 is the result of interest on increased borrowings primarily used to fund share repurchases earlier in the year and drive-in acquisitions from franchisees.

Income Taxes.  The provision for income taxes decreased for fiscal year 2009 with an effective federal and state tax rate of 38.4% compared with 37.4% in fiscal year 2008 and 36.4% in fiscal year 2007. The higher rate in fiscal year 2009 related to an increase in the valuation allowance of state net operating losses offset by a reduction in the liability for unrecognized tax benefits.  Our tax rate may continue to vary significantly from quarter to quarter depending on the timing of option exercises and dispositions by option-holders, changes to uncertain tax positions and as circumstances on individual tax matters change.

Financial Position

During fiscal year 2009, current assets increased 103.3% to $202.1 million compared to $99.4 million as of the end of fiscal year 2008.  Cash balances increased by $93.3 million primarily as a result of refranchising Partner Drive-Ins and advances under the Company’s variable funding notes. During fiscal year 2009, noncurrent assets decreased 12.2% to $646.9 million compared to $736.9 million as of the end of fiscal year 2008.  The decrease was primarily the result of a $62.3 million reduction of net property and equipment and a decrease of $29.5 million in goodwill, resulting from depreciation and the refranchising of Partner Drive-Ins.

Total liabilities decreased $47.1 million or 5.2% during fiscal year 2009 compared to fiscal year 2008 primarily due to a $59.9 million decrease in long-term debt which resulted from payments on the Company’s fixed rate notes.

Stockholders’ deficit decreased $59.8 million or 93.3% during fiscal year 2009.  Earnings of $49.4 million, along with $10.4 million for the combination of stock compensation and the proceeds and related tax decrement from the exercise of stock options, decreased the stockholders’ deficit.

Liquidity and Sources of Capital

Operating Cash Flows.  Net cash provided by operating was $88.7 million in fiscal year 2009 as compared to $127.1 million in fiscal year 2008.  This decrease generally resulted from a decrease in operating results as reflected by the decrease in net income.

Investing Cash Flows. Net cash provided by investing activities was $51.5 million in fiscal year 2009 as compared to net cash used in investing activities of $107.1 million in fiscal year 2008.  The purchase of property and equipment was more than offset by the proceeds from the disposition of Partner Drive-In assets due to refranchising. During fiscal year 2009, we opened 11 newly constructed Partner Drive-Ins and sold 205 drive-ins to franchisees. The following table sets forth the components of our investments in capital additions for fiscal year 2009 (in millions):

New Partner Drive-Ins, including drive-ins under construction
  $ 18.6  
Retrofits, drive-thru additions and LED signs in existing drive-ins
    5.5  
Rebuilds, relocations and remodels of existing drive-ins
    4.5  
Replacement equipment for existing drive-ins and other
    7.5  
Total investing cash flows for capital additions
  $ 36.1  

During fiscal year 2009, we purchased the real estate for nine of the 11 newly constructed drive-ins.

22


Financing Cash Flows. Net cash used in financing activities was $46.9 million in fiscal year 2009 as compared to $1.2 million in fiscal year 2008.  The increase in cash used for financing activities in fiscal year 2009 primarily relates to the net repayment of long-term debt compared to net borrowings in fiscal year 2008.  The Company has a securitized financing facility of Variable Funding Notes that provides for the issuance of up to $200.0 million in borrowings and certain other credit instruments, including letters of credit.  As of August 31, 2009, our outstanding balance under the Variable Funding Notes totaled $187.3 million at an effective borrowing rate of 1.4%, as well as $0.3 million in outstanding letters of credit.  During fiscal year 2009, upon request of the Company to draw down the remaining $12.3 million in Variable Funding Notes from one of the lenders, the lender, which had previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, notified the Company that it could not meet its obligation.  The Company no longer considers the $12.3 million to be available.

Despite recent challenges with Partner Drive-In operations, operating cash flows remain healthy, and we believe that cash flows from operations, along with existing cash balances, will be adequate for mandatory repayment of any long-term debt and funding of planned capital expenditures in fiscal year 2010.  See Note 10 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our long-term debt.

Our variable and fixed rate notes are subject to a series of covenants and restrictions customary for transactions of this type, including (i) required actions to better secure collateral upon the occurrence of certain performance-related events, (ii) application of certain disposition proceeds as note prepayments after a set time is allowed for reinvestment, (iii) maintenance of specified reserve accounts, (iv) maintenance of certain debt service coverage ratios, (v) optional and mandatory prepayments upon change in control, (vi) indemnification payments for defective or ineffective collateral, and (vii) covenants relating to recordkeeping, access to information and similar matters.  The notes are also subject to customary rapid amortization events and events of default.  Although management does not anticipate an event of default or any other event of noncompliance with the provisions of the debt, if such an event occurred, the unpaid amounts outstanding could become immediately due and payable.  See Note 1 – Restricted Cash of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding restrictions on cash.

We plan capital expenditures of approximately $30 to $40 million in fiscal year 2010. These capital expenditures primarily relate to the development of additional Partner Drive-Ins, retrofit of existing Partner Drive-Ins and other drive-in level expenditures. We expect to fund these capital expenditures through cash flow from operations as well as cash on hand.

As of August 31, 2009, our unrestricted cash balance of $137.6 million reflected the impact of the cash generated from operating activities, borrowing activity, refranchising, and capital expenditures mentioned above.  We believe that existing cash and funds generated from operations, as well as borrowings under the Variable Funding Notes, will meet our needs for the foreseeable future.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

The Company has obligations for guarantees on certain franchisee loans and lease agreements. See Note 17 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information about these guarantees. Other than such guarantees and various operating leases, which are disclosed more fully in “Contractual Obligations and Commitments” below and Note 7 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, the Company has no other material off-balance sheet arrangements.

23


Contractual Obligations and Commitments

In the normal course of business, Sonic enters into purchase contracts, lease agreements and borrowing arrangements.  Our commitments and obligations as of August 31, 2009 are summarized in the following table:
 
Payments Due by Period
 
(In Thousands)
 
                               
   
Total
   
Less than 1 Year
   
1 – 3 Years
   
3 – 5 Years
   
More than 5 Years
 
Contractual Obligations
                             
Long-term debt(1)
  $ 777,269     $ 80,789     $ 204,162     $ 492,235     $ 83  
Capital leases
    55,375       5,861       11,174       10,849       27,491  
Operating leases
    189,335       11,909       23,198       22,206       132,022  
Total
  $ 1,021,979     $ 98,559     $ 238,534     $ 525,290     $ 159,596  
 
(1)
The fixed-rate interest payments included in the table above assume that the related notes will be outstanding for the expected six-year term, and all other fixed-rate notes will be held to maturity.  Interest payments associated with variable-rate debt have not been included in the table.  Assuming the amounts outstanding under the variable-rate notes as of August 31, 2009 are held to maturity, and utilizing interest rates in effect at August 31, 2009, the interest payments will be approximately $3 million on an annual basis through December 2013.

Impact of Inflation

We have experienced impact from inflation. Inflation has caused increased food, labor and benefits costs and has increased our operating expenses. To the extent permitted by competition, increased costs are recovered through a combination of menu price increases and reviewing, then implementing, alternative products or processes, or by implementing other cost reduction procedures.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

The Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in this document contain information that is pertinent to management's discussion and analysis. The preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles requires management to use its judgment to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities. These assumptions and estimates could have a material effect on our financial statements.  We evaluate our assumptions and estimates on an ongoing basis using historical experience and various other factors that are believed to be relevant under the circumstances.  Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

We annually review our financial reporting and disclosure practices and accounting policies to ensure that our financial reporting and disclosures provide accurate and transparent information relative to the current economic and business environment.  We believe that of our significant accounting policies (see Note 1 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements), the following policies involve a higher degree of risk, judgment and/or complexity.

Impairment of Long-Lived Assets. We review Partner Drive-In assets for impairment when events or circumstances indicate they might be impaired. We test for impairment using historical cash flows and other relevant facts and circumstances as the primary basis for our estimates of future cash flows.  This process requires the use of estimates and assumptions, which are subject to a high degree of judgment. These impairment tests require us to estimate fair values of our drive-ins by making assumptions regarding future cash flows and other factors.  During fiscal year 2009, we reviewed Partner Drive-Ins and other long-lived assets with combined carrying amounts of $52 million in property, equipment and capital leases for possible impairment, and our cash flow assumptions resulted in impairment charges totaling $11.2 million to write down certain assets to their estimated fair value.

We assess the recoverability of goodwill and other intangible assets related to our brand and drive-ins at least annually and more frequently if events or changes in circumstances occur indicating that the carrying amount of the asset may not be recoverable. Goodwill impairment testing first requires a comparison of the fair value of each reporting unit to the carrying value. We estimate fair value based on a comparison of two approaches: discounted cash flow analyses and a market multiple approach. The discounted estimates of future cash flows include significant management assumptions such as revenue growth rates, operating margins, weighted average cost of capital, and future economic and market conditions. In addition, the market multiple approach includes significant assumptions such as the use of recent historical market multiples to estimate future market pricing.  These assumptions are significant factors in calculating the value of the reporting units and can be affected by changes in
 
consumer demand, commodity pricing, labor and other operating costs, our cost of capital and our ability to identify buyers in the market.  If the carrying value of the reporting unit exceeds fair value, goodwill is considered impaired. The amount of the impairment is the difference between the carrying value of the goodwill and the “implied” fair value, which is calculated as if the reporting unit had just been acquired and accounted for as a business combination.
 
During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009, we performed our annual assessment of recoverability of goodwill and other intangible assets and determined that no impairment was indicated.  As of the 2009 impairment testing date, the fair value of the Partner Drive-In reporting unit exceeded the carrying value by approximately 15%. The carrying value of goodwill as of August 31, 2009, was $76.3 million, all of which was allocated to the Partner Drive-In reporting unit. If cash flows generated by our Partner Drive-Ins were to decline significantly in the future or there were negative revisions to key assumptions, we may be required to record impairment charges to reduce the carrying amount of goodwill.

Ownership Program. Our drive-in philosophy stresses an ownership relationship with supervisors and drive-in managers.  Most supervisors and managers of Partner Drive-Ins own an equity interest in the drive-in, which is financed by third parties.  Supervisors and managers are neither employees of Sonic nor of the drive-in in which they have an ownership interest.

The minority ownership interests in Partner Drive-Ins of the managers and supervisors are recorded as a minority interest liability on the Consolidated Balance Sheets, and their share of the drive-in earnings is reflected as minority interest in earnings of Partner Drive-Ins in the costs and expenses section of the Consolidated Statements of Income.  The ownership agreements contain provisions that give Sonic the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the minority interest of the supervisor or manager in a drive-in.  The amount of the investment made by a partner and the amount of the buy-out are based on a number of factors, including primarily the drive-in’s financial performance for the preceding 12 months, and are intended to approximate the fair value of a minority interest in the drive-in.

The Company acquires and sells minority interests in Partner Drive-Ins from time to time as managers and supervisors buy out and buy in to the partnerships or limited liability companies.  If the purchase price of a minority interest that we acquire exceeds the net book value of the assets underlying the partnership interest, the excess is recorded as goodwill.  The acquisition of a minority interest for less than book value is recorded as a reduction in purchased goodwill.  When the Company sells a minority interest, the sales price is typically in excess of the book value of the partnership interest, and the difference is recorded as a reduction of goodwill.  If the book value exceeds the sales price, the excess is recorded as goodwill.  In either case, no gain or loss is recognized on the sale of the minority ownership interest.  Goodwill created as a result of the acquisition of minority interests in Partner Drive-Ins is not amortized but is tested annually for impairment under the provisions of SFAS 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.”

Revenue Recognition Related to Franchise Fees and Royalties.  Initial franchise fees are recognized in income when we have substantially performed or satisfied all material services or conditions relating to the sale of the franchise and the fees are nonrefundable.  Area development fees are nonrefundable and are recognized in income on a pro-rata basis when the conditions for revenue recognition under the individual area development agreements are met. Both initial franchise fees and area development fees are generally recognized upon the opening of a Franchise Drive-In or upon termination of the agreement between Sonic and the franchisee.

Our franchisees are required under the provisions of the license agreements to pay royalties to Sonic each month based on a percentage of actual net sales.  However, the royalty payments and supporting financial statements are not due until the following month under the terms of our license agreements.  As a result, we accrue royalty revenue in the month earned based on estimates of Franchise Drive-Ins sales.  These estimates are based on projections of average unit volume growth at Franchise Drive-Ins collected from a majority of Franchise Drive-Ins.

Accounting for Stock-Based Compensation.  We account for stock-based compensation in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 123 (revised 2004), “Share-Based Payment” (“SFAS 123R”).  We estimate the fair value of options granted using the Black-Scholes option pricing model along with the assumptions shown in Note 13 of Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this Form 10-K.  The assumptions used in computing the fair value of share-based payments reflect our best estimates, but involve uncertainties relating to market and other conditions, many of which are outside of our control.  We estimate expected volatility based on historical daily price changes of the Company’s stock for a period equal to the current expected term of the options.  The expected option term is the number of years the Company estimates that options will be outstanding prior to exercise
 
considering vesting schedules and our historical exercise patterns.  If other assumptions or estimates had been used, the stock-based compensation expense that was recorded during fiscal year 2009 could have been materially different.  Furthermore, if different assumptions are used in future periods, stock-based compensation expense could be materially impacted.
 
Income Taxes.  We estimate certain components of our provision for income taxes.  These estimates include, among other items, depreciation and amortization expense allowable for tax purposes, allowable tax credits for items such as wages paid to certain employees, effective rates for state and local income taxes and the tax deductibility of certain other items.

We account for uncertain tax positions under the provisions of Financial Accounting Standards Board Interpretation No. 48, "Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes" (“FIN 48”) which sets out criteria for the use of judgment in assessing the timing and amounts of deductible and taxable items. Although we believe we have adequately accounted for our uncertain tax positions, from time to time, audits result in proposed assessments where the ultimate resolution may result in us owing additional taxes. We adjust our uncertain tax positions in light of changing facts and circumstances, such as the completion of a tax audit, expiration of a statute of limitations, the refinement of an estimate, and penalty and interest accruals associated with uncertain tax positions until they are resolved. We believe that our tax positions comply with applicable tax law and that we have adequately provided for these matters. However, to the extent that the final tax outcome of these matters is different than the amounts recorded, such differences will impact the provision for income taxes in the period in which such determination is made.

Our estimates are based on the best available information at the time that we prepare the provision, including legislative and judicial developments.  We generally file our annual income tax returns several months after our fiscal year end.  Income tax returns are subject to audit by federal, state and local governments, typically several years after the returns are filed.  These returns could be subject to material adjustments or differing interpretations of the tax laws.  Adjustments to these estimates or returns can result in significant variability in the tax rate from period to period.

Leases.  Certain Partner Drive-Ins lease land and buildings from third parties.  Rent expense for operating leases is recognized on a straight-line basis over the expected lease term, including cancelable option periods when it is deemed to be reasonably assured that we would incur an economic penalty for not exercising the options.  Judgment is required to determine options expected to be exercised.  Certain of our leases have provisions for rent holidays and/or escalations in payments over the base lease term, as well as renewal periods.  The effects of the rent holidays and escalations are reflected in rent expense on a straight-line basis over the expected lease term, including cancelable option periods when appropriate.  The lease term commences on the date when we have the right to control the use of lease property, which can occur before rent payments are due under the terms of the lease.  Contingent rent is generally based on sales levels and is accrued at the point in time we determine that it is probable that such sales levels will be achieved.

Item 7A.  Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

Sonic’s use of debt directly exposes the Company to interest rate risk.  Floating rate debt, where the interest rate fluctuates periodically, exposes the Company to short-term changes in market interest rates.  Fixed rate debt, where the interest rate is fixed over the life of the instrument, exposes the Company to changes in market interest rates reflected in the fair value of the debt and to the risk that the Company may need to refinance maturing debt with new debt at a higher rate.  Sonic is also exposed to market risk from changes in commodity prices.  Sonic does not utilize financial instruments for trading purposes.  Sonic manages its debt portfolio to achieve an overall desired position of fixed and floating rates and may employ interest rate swaps as a tool to achieve that goal in the future.

Interest Rate Risk.  Our exposure to interest rate risk at August 31, 2009 is primarily based on the fixed rate notes with an effective rate of 5.7%, before amortization of debt-related costs.  At August 31, 2009, the fair value of the fixed rate notes was estimated at $473.3 million versus carrying value of $511.9 million (including accrued interest).  The difference between fair value and carrying value is attributable to interest rate decreases subsequent to when the debt was originally issued, more than offset by the increase in credit spreads required by issuers of similar debt instruments in the current market.  Should interest rates and/or credit spreads increase or decrease by one percentage point, the estimated fair value of the fixed rate notes would decrease by approximately $11.8 million or increase by approximately $11.4 million, respectively.  The fair value estimate required significant assumptions by management as there are few, if any, securitized loan transactions occurring in the current market.  Management used market information available for public debt transactions for companies with ratings that are close to or lower than ratings for the Company (without consideration for the third-party credit enhancement).  Management believes this fair value is a reasonable estimate with the information that is available.  The difference between fair value and carrying value is
 
attributable to interest rate decreases subsequent to when the debt was originally issued which is more than offset by the increase in credit spreads required by issuers of similar debt instruments in the current market.
 
The variable funding notes outstanding at August 31, 2009 totaled $187.3 million, with a variable rate of 1.4%.  The annual impact on our results of operations of a one-point interest rate change for the balance outstanding at year-end would be approximately $1.9 million before tax.  At August 31, 2009, the fair value of the variable funding notes was estimated at $159.3 million versus carrying value of $187.3 million (including accrued interest).  Should credit spreads increase or decrease by one percentage point, the estimated fair value of the variable funding notes would decrease by approximately $5.2 million or increase by approximately $5.1 million, respectively.  The Company used similar assumptions to value the variable funding notes as were used for the fixed rate notes.  The difference between fair value and carrying value is attributable to the increase in credit spreads required by issuers of similar debt instruments in the current market.

We have made certain loans to our franchisees totaling $9.5 million as of August 31, 2009.  The interest rates on these notes are generally between 5.0% and 10.5%.  We believe the carrying amount of these notes approximates their fair value.

Commodity Price Risk.  The Company and its franchisees purchase certain commodities such as beef, potatoes, chicken and dairy products.  These commodities are generally purchased based upon market prices established with vendors. These purchase arrangements may contain contractual features that limit the price paid by establishing price floors or caps; however, we have not made any long-term commitments to purchase any minimum quantities under these arrangements. We do not use financial instruments to hedge commodity prices because these purchase agreements help control the ultimate cost.

This market risk discussion contains forward-looking statements.  Actual results may differ materially from this discussion based upon general market conditions and changes in financial markets.

Item 8.  Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

The Company has included the financial statements and supplementary financial information required by this item immediately following Part IV of this report and hereby incorporates by reference the relevant portions of those statements and information into this Item 8.

Item 9.  Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

None.

Item 9A.  Controls and Procedures

As of the end of the period covered by this report, the Company carried out an evaluation, under the supervision and with the participation of the Company’s management, including the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer, of the effectiveness of the design and operation of the Company’s disclosure controls and procedures (as defined in Rule 13a-14 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934).  Based upon that evaluation, the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer concluded that the Company’s disclosure controls and procedures were effective.  There were no significant changes in the Company’s internal controls or in other factors that could significantly affect these controls subsequent to the date of their evaluation.


Management's Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting

The management of the Company is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting. The Company’s internal control system was designed to provide reasonable assurance to the Company’s management and Board of Directors regarding the preparation and fair presentation of published financial statements. All internal control systems, no matter how well designed, have inherent limitations. Therefore, even those systems determined to be effective can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to financial statement preparation and presentation.

The Company’s management assessed the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting as of August 31, 2009.  In making this assessment, it used the criteria set forth by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission in Internal Control—Integrated Framework.  Based on our
 
assessment, we believe that, as of August 31, 2009, the Company’s internal control over financial reporting is effective based on those criteria.

The Company’s independent registered public accounting firm that audited the financial statements included in the annual report has issued an attestation report on the Company’s internal control over financial reporting. This report appears on the following page.
 
28

 
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 
The Board of Directors and Stockholders of Sonic Corp.
 
We have audited Sonic Corp.’s internal control over financial reporting as of August 31, 2009, based on criteria established in Internal Control—Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (the COSO criteria).  Sonic Corp.’s management is responsible for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting, and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting included in the accompanying Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting.  Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the company’s internal control over financial reporting based on our audit.
 
We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States).  Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects.  Our audit included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk, and performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.
 
A company’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.
 
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements.  Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
 
In our opinion, Sonic Corp. maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of August 31, 2009, based on the COSO criteria.
 
We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the consolidated balance sheets of Sonic Corp. as of August 31, 2009 and 2008, and the related consolidated statements of income, stockholders’ deficit, and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009 of Sonic Corp. and our report dated October 29, 2009 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.
 
 
ERNST & YOUNG LLP
 
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
October 29, 2009
 
29


Item 9B.  Other Information

No information was required to be disclosed in a Form 8-K during the Company’s fourth quarter of its 2009 fiscal year which was not reported.
 
PART III

Item 10.  Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

Sonic has adopted a Code of Ethics for Financial Officers and a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics that applies to all directors, officers and employees.  Sonic has posted copies of these codes on the investor section of its internet website at the internet address: http://www.sonicdrivein.com.

Information regarding Sonic’s executive officers is set forth under Item 4A of Part I of this report.  The other information required by this item is incorporated by reference from the definitive proxy statement which Sonic will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission no later than 120 days after August 31, 2009 (the “Proxy Statement”), under the captions “Election of Directors” and “Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance.”

Item 11.  Executive Compensation

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference from the Proxy Statement under the caption “Executive Compensation – Compensation Discussion and Analysis.”

Item 12.  Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference from the Proxy Statement under the captions “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management” and “Equity Compensation Plan Information.”

Item 13.  Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference from the Proxy Statement under the captions “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions,” “Director Independence,” “Committees of the Board of Directors,” and “Compensation Committee Interlocks and Insider Participation.”

Item 14.  Principal Accounting Fees and Services

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference from the Proxy Statement under the caption “Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm.”

PART IV

Item 15.  Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

Financial Statements

The following consolidated financial statements of the Company appear immediately following this Item 15:

 
Pages
   
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
F-1
Consolidated Balance Sheets at August 31, 2009 and 2008
F-2
Consolidated Statements of Income for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009
F-4
Consolidated Statements of Stockholders’ Deficit for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009
F-5
Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009
F-6
Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements
F-8

30


Financial Statement Schedules

The Company has included the following schedule immediately following this Item 15:
 
     
Page
       
Schedule II
-
Valuation and Qualifying Accounts
F-34

The Company has omitted all other schedules because the conditions requiring their filing do not exist or because the required information appears in Sonic’s Consolidated Financial Statements, including the notes to those statements.

Exhibits

The Company has filed the exhibits listed below with this report.  The Company has marked all management contracts and compensatory plans or arrangements with an asterisk (*).

3.01.           Certificate of Incorporation of the Company, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 3.1 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158 filed on October 3, 1990.

3.02.           Certificate of Amendment of Certificate of Incorporation of the Company, March 4, 1996, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 3.05 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2000.

3.03.           Certificate of Amendment of Certificate of Incorporation of the Company, January 22, 2002, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 3.06 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2002.

3.04.           Certificate of Amendment of Certificate of Incorporation of the Company, January 31, 2006, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 3.04 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2006.

3.05.           Bylaws of the Company, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 3.2 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158 filed on October 3, 1990.

3.06.           Certificate of Designations of Series A Junior Preferred Stock, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.1 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on June 17, 1997.

4.01.           Specimen Certificate for Common Stock, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 4.01 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1999.

10.01.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC, successor to Sonic Industries Inc., License Agreement (the Number 4.2 License Agreement and Number 5.1 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.03 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1994.

10.02.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC, successor to Sonic Industries Inc., License Agreement (the Number 6 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.04 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1994.

10.03.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC, successor to Sonic Industries Inc., License Agreement (the Number 6A License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.05 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1998.

10.04.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC, successor to Sonic Industries Inc., License Agreement (the Number 5.2 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.06 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1998.

31


10.05.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC License Agreement (the Number 4.4/5.4 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.08 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2007.

10.06.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC License Agreement (the Number 5.5 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.09 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2007.

10.07.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC License Agreement (the Number 7 License Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.10 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2007.

10.08.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC, successor to Sonic Industries Inc., Area Development Agreement (the Number 6A Area Development Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.05 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1995.

10.09.         Form of Sonic Industries LLC Area Development Agreement (the Number 7 Area Development Agreement), which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.13 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2007.

10.10.         Form of Sonic Industries Services Inc. Sign Lease Agreement, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.4 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158.

10.11.         Form of General Partnership Agreement, Limited Liability Company Operating Agreement and Master Agreement, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.09 to the Company’s Form 10-K for fiscal year ended August 31, 2003.

10.12.         1991 Sonic Corp. Stock Option Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.5 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158.*

10.13.         1991 Sonic Corp. Stock Purchase Plan, amended and restated effective April 2, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.17 to the Company’s Form 10-K for fiscal year ended August 31, 2008.*

10.14.         1991 Sonic Corp. Directors’ Stock Option Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.08 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1991.*

10.15.         Sonic Corp. Savings and Profit Sharing Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.8 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158.*

10.16.         Net Revenue Incentive Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.19 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158.*

10.17.         Form of Indemnification Agreement for Directors, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.7 to the Company’s Form S-1 Registration Statement No. 33-37158.*

10.18.         Form of Indemnification Agreement for Officers, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.14 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 1995.*

10.19.         Employment Agreement with J. Clifford Hudson dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.01 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.20.         Employment Agreement with W. Scott McLain dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.05 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.21.         Employment Agreement with Omar Janjua dated October 15, 2009.*

32


10.22.         Employment Agreement with Stephen C. Vaughan dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.09 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.23.         Employment Agreement with Paige S. Bass dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.02 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.24.         Employment Agreement with Carolyn Cummins, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.03 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.25.         Employment Agreement with Terry D. Harryman dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.04 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.26.         Employment Agreement with Claudia San Pedro dated December 15, 2008, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.06 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.27.         Employment Agreement with Sharon T. Strickland dated December 15, 2008,, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 10.08 to the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter ended February 28, 2009.*

10.28.         2001 Sonic Corp. Stock Option Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.32 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2001.*

10.29.         2001 Sonic Corp. Directors’ Stock Option Plan, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.33 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2001.*

10.30.         Sonic Corp. 2006 Long Term Incentive Plan which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit No. 10.31 to the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2006.*

21.01.         Subsidiaries of the Company.

23.01.         Consent of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm.

31.01.         Certification of Chief Executive Officer pursuant to S.E.C. Rule 13a-14.

31.02.         Certification of Chief Financial Officer pursuant to S.E.C. Rule 13a-14.

32.01.         Certification of Chief Executive Officer pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350.

32.02.         Certification of Chief Financial Officer pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350.

99.01          Base Indenture dated December 20, 2006 among Sonic Capital LLC and certain other indirect subsidiaries of the Company, and Citibank, N.A. as Trustee and Securities Intermediary, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.1 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on December 27, 2006.

99.02          Supplemental Indenture dated December 20, 2006 among Sonic Capital LLC and certain other indirect subsidiaries of the Company, and Citibank, N.A. as Trustee and the Series 2006-1 Securities Intermediary, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.2 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on December 27, 2006.

99.03          Class A-1 Note Purchase Agreement dated December 20, 2006 among Sonic Capital LLC and certain other indirect subsidiaries of the Company, certain private conduit investors, financial institutions and funding agents, Bank of America, N.A. as provider of letters of credit, and Lehman Commercial Paper Inc., as a swing line lender and as Administrative Agent, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.3 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on December 27, 2006.

33


99.04          Guarantee and Collateral Support Agreement dated December 20, 2006 made by Sonic Industries LLC, as Guarantor in favor of Citibank N.A. as Trustee, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.4 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on December 27, 2006.

99.05          Parent Company Support Agreement dated December 20, 2006 made by Sonic Corp. in favor of Citibank N.A., as Trustee, which the Company hereby incorporates by reference from Exhibit 99.5 to the Company’s Form 8-K filed on December 27, 2006.

34


Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

The Board of Directors and Stockholders of
Sonic Corp.

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Sonic Corp. as of August 31, 2009 and 2008, and the related consolidated statements of income, stockholders’ deficit, and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009. Our audits also included the financial statement schedule listed in the Index at Item 15. These financial statements and schedule are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and schedule based on our audits.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Sonic Corp. at August 31, 2009 and 2008, and the consolidated results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended August 31, 2009, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Also, in our opinion, the related financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic financial statements taken as a whole, presents fairly in all material respects the information set forth therein.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the effectiveness of Sonic Corp.’s internal control over financial reporting as of August 31, 2009, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated October 29, 2009, expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

As discussed in Note 12 to the consolidated financial statements, in fiscal year 2008 the Company adopted Financial Accounting Standards Board Interpretation No. 48 “Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes.”
 
 
ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
October 29, 2009

F-1


Sonic Corp.

Consolidated Balance Sheets

   
August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
 
   
(In Thousands)
 
             
Assets
           
Current assets:
           
Cash and cash equivalents
  $ 137,597     $ 44,266  
Restricted cash
    24,900       14,934  
Accounts and notes receivable, net
    27,585       29,838  
Inventories
    3,365       4,553  
Prepaid expenses and other
    8,685       5,836  
Total current assets
    202,132       99,427  
                 
                 
Noncurrent restricted cash
    10,468       11,192  
                 
Notes receivable, net
    7,679       3,163  
                 
Property, equipment and capital leases, net
    523,938       586,245  
                 
Goodwill, net
    76,299       105,762  
                 
Trademarks, trade names and other intangibles, net
    12,011       12,418  
                 
Debt origination costs, net
    11,071       16,121  
                 
Other assets, net
    5,443       1,984  
Total assets
  $ 849,041     $ 836,312  

F-2


Sonic Corp.

Consolidated Balance Sheets (continued)

   
August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
 
   
(In Thousands)
 
             
Liabilities and stockholders’ deficit
           
Current liabilities:
           
Accounts payable
  $ 17,174     $ 20,762  
Deposits from franchisees
    1,833       3,213  
Accrued liabilities
    34,512       46,200  
Income taxes payable
    8,156       1,016  
Obligations under capital leases and long-term debt due within one year
    55,644       41,351  
Total current liabilities
    117,319       112,542  
                 
Obligations under capital leases due after one year
    36,516       34,503  
Long-term debt due after one year
    646,851       720,953  
Other noncurrent liabilities
    26,116       18,083  
Deferred income taxes
    26,507       14,347  
Commitments and contingencies (Notes 7, 8, 15, 16 and 17)
               
                 
Stockholders’ deficit:
               
Preferred stock, par value $.01; 1,000,000 shares authorized; none outstanding
           
Common stock, par value $.01; 245,000,000 shares authorized; shares issued 117,781,040 in 2009 and 117,044,879 in 2008
    1,178       1,170  
Paid-in capital
    219,736       209,316  
Retained earnings
    649,398       599,956  
Accumulated other comprehensive income
    (1,500 )     (2,191 )
      868,812       808,251  
Treasury stock, at cost; 56,683,932 shares in 2009 and 56,600,080 shares in 2008
    (873,080 )     (872,367 )
Total stockholders’ deficit
    (4,268 )     (64,116 )
Total liabilities and stockholders’ deficit
  $ 849,041     $ 836,312  

See accompanying notes.

F-3


Sonic Corp.

Consolidated Statements of Income

   
Year ended August 31,
 
   
2009
   
2008
   
2007
 
   
(In Thousands, Except Per Share Data)
 
Revenues: