OKLAHOMA CITY-Sonic’s sales and store base continue to expand, as the chain has continued success with new menu items and marketing initiatives, management says. Same-stores sales rose 4% year over year during the company’s third quarter and Sonic opened 48 new stores, five more than the same period last year.

For the year Sonic executives predict that the company will open between 180 and 190 new restaurants during the fiscal year, with about 150 to 160 operated by franchisees. Between 65 and 75 of those new locations will open their doors during the fourth quarter.

Sonic is also renovating its existing store base. So far this fiscal year, Sonic has retrofitted about 120 corporate drive-ins, and franchisees have done 81. For the year it is targeting 150 corporate renovations and 250 to 300 by franchisees. All 3,200 units are planned for completion in the next three to four years.

During the quarter, which ended May 31, revenues rose 13% from the same period last year, hitting $209.9 million, though net income fell the same amount, to $20.6 million, due to higher debt and expenses related to share repurchases. Management predicts fourth-quarter revenue growth to increase between 10% and 12% more than last year’s Q4 and earnings per share to hit from 32 cents to 33 cents compared to 29 cents.

Sonic is spending $170 million on marketing this fiscal year, up from $145 million in 2006. About half of that budget is being spent on national cable television advertising.

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