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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's Your Money

We have a number of business related stories today.

The new Wilkes-Barre Sonic has its official grand opening today. The restaurant had what's called a "soft opening" around 9 yesterday morning. A soft opening isn't announced. Management uses it to get the bugs out of the system and the employees trained, outside of the pressure and crowds associated with a grand opening. In other words, it's a shake down cruise. I happened to be in the neighborhood yesterday, and a photographer and I drove by to take a look. I'd never seen a Sonic before. I didn't know about the soft opening, and I didn't plan to eat there, but the giant cup beckoned, as evidenced by the photo above. I never turn down requests from giant cups.

So how did it go? Yes, there were a few glitches in the system. One of the walk up ordering stations wasn't working right. Employees weren't totally sure what to do. Workmen were still putting the finishing touches on the building. I'm new to Sonic. Luckily, there were people there to guide me through the process. You have three choices. Drive up to a stall, and order into a speaker. A car hop brings your food and takes your money. There are two dozen of these ports. Sonic has a traditional fast food drive through, and two walk up stations. You never go inside, and there is no inside dining. It looks like a tough system to get people in and out in a hurry. This has "potential traffic flow nightmare" written all over it. Drivers have to back out of the stalls, right into the line for the traditional drive through. However, Sonic is a hugely successful business, so I guess they know what they're doing.

How's the food? Okay. Just okay-- except for the onion rings. They're real onion rings, not the minced stuff formed into a ring that you get in another big fast food chain. Awesome. Other than the rings, I had a regular hamburger with lettuce, tomato and ketchup, and fries. It was typical fast food fare, maybe a little better than average.

I understand Sonic is popular for its drinks and frozen treats. I'm not one for sugary drinks, so I just had a Diet Coke. I wasn't in an ice cream mood, so I'll have to try it some other time.

Here's a big Sonic plus-- full menu, all day. You can get a burger at 6 am and a breakfast sandwich at 10 pm. As someone who's up very early in the morning, a 6 am burger can be appealing. I'm about ready for lunch around sunrise.

I never thought I'd see the day General Motors went bankrupt. The New York Times has done several stories on how GM lost its way, so I won't repeat them here. You can Google or Bing them when you get a chance. They're good reading. I guess it all comes down to GM failing to make cars that people want, and an archaic way of doing things.

I spent part of the morning at a Chevrolet dealer in Luzerne County. The president of the company put a good spin on the GM bankruptcy. He believes the bankruptcy is rock bottom, and the upward climb is on the way. It was a good move to confront the bankruptcy news, and to show customers the dealership isn't going away.

If you believe the people in favor of the government bail out, GM will emerge from bankruptcy a smaller, but stronger company. I've seen this several times before, and I've even been a part of it a couple times. Companies rarely emerge from the process stronger. It's just the same bad company, in a smaller form. My sympathy to those who lost their jobs. Management failed you.

I had to pick up something at a big box office supply store after work yesterday, and it was a madhouse. The place was filled with high school and college kids making and printing resumes. I wish them luck. This is a tough time to look for work.

By the way, I've really had it with "loyalty" and "customer rewards" cards. Gas stations, big box stores, drug stores and supermarkets all have them, and it's nearly impossible to keep track of them all. I know it gives management a good idea of what people want, and it might save you a few cents. On the other hand, it's a royal pain in the behind, especially if you're like me. My supermarket choice is determined by that week's specials. I think I have five supermarket tags on a key chain.

James Lake had a business called JPL Financial. He was in federal court yesterday to plead guilty. People gave him money to invest. Instead, Lake stole it. There is a special place for people like that, and I don't mean jail-- even though it will be Lake's new home for the next several years.