Like a Boss is pulling up at the drive-in this month with Bossier’s very own “Sonic Guy” Paul Reiser.
A veteran of the restaurant industry for 30 years, Reiser owns 37 Sonics across four states, including the Sonics in Bossier City, Benton and Haughton.
It all began at the age of nine when Reiser’s dad had him, and the rest of his family, working at a Sonic.
“My dad always wanted to have his own business. He got into Sonic in his late 30s. First it was kind of tough, so we all worked. I was 12 years old carhopping,” Reiser recalled. “But I grew up in it and the restaurant business gets in your blood. I love hospitality. I love customer service, and I love the food.”
He said Sonic is a great brand for him because he wanted something with a great product and great marketing, although he didn’t always want to continue the family business.
“I wanted to get away from the family business. My degree is video production. There was a lot more money in hamburgers.”
Reiser later started a management company with his four siblings and over the next 10 years we went from 13 Sonics to 38 Sonics.
“That seems like a long time, but you have to be patient and realize it takes time.”
The only way he is able to balance everything is because he has good managers, supervisors and director of operations.
“The only easy job in this company is mine,” Reiser said. “If you want to grow, you’ve got to be teaching leadership.”
He said the major challenge in his industry is deceptive — no barrier to entry.
“Food is cheap and you can sell it for so much profit margin, you don’t need a degree, you don’t need any special training; but before you know it, it eats you up and you’re in debt,” Reiser explained. “You have a million-dollar building on a million-dollar piece of land. You have labor cost, food cost and a lot of overhead.”
His advice to business owners is one that he follows himself: Always be developing people. For example, Reiser said his restaurants have internal skill builder classes that have practical lessons and leadership lessons.
“A lot of peopled are afraid to develop that next person that is going to take our place. What bring people back is a good experience. There’s no way I can have 37 Sonics if I don’t have 37 leaders.”
In fact, Reiser is capitalizing on his experience and love of teaching by taking a reality show concept and making it an online series called “The Sonic Guy.”
“I wanted to learn to utilize the Internet. It’s a big deal but I didn’t know what to do with it. I said, ‘We can use this as a marketing tool.’ I have 30 years of business in customer service so maybe I can teach and be mildly entertaining.”
But why does Reiser want to own restaurants in Bossier? He said it’s the business community in the area.
“The whole business community comes together. I know a lot of owners of other restaurants and that’s through the Bossier Chamber. It’s a great way to connect and it’s a great resource,” he said. “And it’s a great place to raise a family. It’s where my home is, it’s where my church is, it’s a great family environment.”
For more interviews with leading bosses in Bossier, check out last month’s Like a Boss with Jenny Russell Lazarus from Lazarus Design Studio.