Why Sonny's BBQ

The Sonny's Story

What started with a man, some meat and a dream turned into a beloved brand of American BBQ. Now’s your chance to join in the success.

In 1968, Floyd “Sonny” Tillman and his wife, Lucille, opened a local BBQ joint in Gainesville, Florida. Fifty years and more than a hundred restaurants later, we’re still a local BBQ joint. We’re just in more locations. We still slow-smoke over oak. We still serve generous portions slathered in Southern hospitality. And we still believe people should be able to go out to eat and feel right at home.

 

Sound like something you want in on? We’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for people passionate about great BBQ and great service to help drive us forward while carrying on the time-honored traditions.

Meaty Milestones

1968 SONNY’S STARTS SMOKIN’



Floyd “Sonny” Tillman and his wife, Lucille, open up shop on Waldo Road in Gainesville, Florida.

1977 1ST FRANCHISED RESTAURANT OPENS


The love of Sonny’s spreads and John Kirkpatrick bought in as our first franchisee.

1980 BOB BUYS IN


Bob Yarmuth, current Sonny’s CEO, buys his first Sonny’s BBQ restaurant.

1991 THE TORCH IS PASSED


Founder Sonny Tillman sells his BBQ chain to Bob Yarmuth.

1998 100TH RESTAURANT OPENS


Officially servin’ BBQ in eight Southeastern states.

2013 A NEW SONNY'S


We refreshed our brand and restaurants to showcase our craft and put the focus on our Pitmasters. And we attracted new guests in the process, increasing sales by 8-9% system wide.

2017 & beyond FIRED-UP FUTURE


Our continued success puts us on track to surpass our ambitious growth objectives. Which is why there’s never been a more exciting time to become a part of our franchise family.

Meaty Milestones

  • 1968 SONNY’S STARTS SMOKIN’

    
Floyd “Sonny” Tillman and his wife, Lucille, open up shop on Waldo Road in Gainesville, Florida.

  • 1977 1ST FRANCHISED RESTAURANT OPENS

    The love of Sonny’s spreads and John Kirkpatrick bought in as our first franchisee.

  • 1980 BOB BUYS IN

    Bob Yarmuth, current Sonny’s CEO, buys his first Sonny’s BBQ restaurant.

  • 1991 THE TORCH IS PASSED

    Founder Sonny Tillman sells his BBQ chain to Bob Yarmuth.

  • 1998 100TH RESTAURANT OPENS

    Officially servin’ BBQ in eight Southeastern states.

  • 2013 A NEW SONNY'S

    We refreshed our brand and restaurants to showcase our craft and put the focus on our Pitmasters. And we attracted new guests in the process, increasing sales by 8-9% system wide.

  • 2017 & beyond FIRED-UP FUTURE

    Our continued success puts us on track to surpass our ambitious growth objectives. Which is why there’s never been a more exciting time to become a part of our franchise family.

Take a look back to see why our future’s never looked brighter.

Lookin’ AHEAD

New look. New flavors. New fans.

Smokin’ BBQ for 50 years means we’re the real deal. But over time, we strayed from our strengths and lost sight of who we were. So in 2013, we decided to get back to our BBQ roots, put our focus back on our craft and showcase our Pitmasters above all. So we overhauled our brand identity, refreshed our menu with updated classics and new flavors and gave our restaurants the modern makeover they deserved. With lots of natural light, an open floor plan and smokers in plain view, there’s no mistakin’ we’re a BBQ joint. And we’ve got a new generation of Sonny’s fans to prove it.

 

SEE FOR YOURSELF WHY OUR MODERN BBQ JOINT IS ATTRACTING NEW FANS

Gainesville - Archer Road

Tallahassee - Monroe

OUR SEAT AT THE TABLE

What made us great in ’68 is what sets us apart today.

  • Authentic.

    We still slow-smoke over oak for up to 12 hours at a time. We respect time-honored traditions and and stick to tried and true techniques. And our real Pitmasters skillfully prepare and graciously serve quality BBQ every day. Sonny’s means real, genuine, authentic BBQ—plain and simple.

  • Gracious.

     

    A hearty serving of Southern hospitality is found in everything we do. Sonny himself greeted every guest as he manned our first pit in ’68, and our commitment to being gracious hosts has never wavered. We make sure people feel right at home in our restaurants.

  • Flexible.

    Our flexible service model lets guests enjoy delicious BBQ on their terms. The steady burn of our smokers means we always have quality food available and ready to serve. But if guests can’t pull up a seat and stay a while, our food travels well, making it perfect for carryout and catering. 

Pit to Plate

BBQ served fresh from the smoker.

We serve up quality BBQ you can believe in and guests line up for. Our lean pork shoulder is smoked in house for up to 12 hours by a certified Pitmaster. Our Certified Angus Beef Brisket® is hand-rubbed then slow smoked for hours and served fresh daily. Same goes for our fan-favorite ribs and our BBQ chicken, too—expertly prepared by a Pitmaster, then slow-smoked over real oak wood. In house. Every day. It’s the only way to get that signature Sonny’s flavor everyone knows and loves.

Pitmaster Program

Masters of quality.

At the heart of each one of our restaurants, you’ll find a certified Pitmaster constantly sharpening their skills. Cuts of meat. Cooking times and temperatures. Sauces and rubs. You name it, they know it. But this doesn’t happen overnight. Our Pitmasters go through an intensive program to learn the science of smoking from some of BBQ’s best. They compete in BBQ competitions and go head-to-head with other Pitmasters before earning their spot behind our smokers.

BBQ HQ – Corporate Culture

Southern hospitality doesn’t stop at our guests. When you join the Sonny’s family, you’re supported by a team that’s guided by a passion for BBQ, innovation, fun, doing right by others and serving the community.

Leadership

Bob Yarmuth

CEO/Owner

Bob Yarmuth was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Michigan and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Louisville. Bob became a Sonny’s franchisee in 1980. In 1991, Bob and his cousin, Jeff, purchased Sonny’s from Sonny Tillman, the chain’s founder. Bob has served as Chief Executive Officer of Sonny’s Franchise Company since then.

Christie Schatz

VP, Operations & Culture

Christie Schatz graduated from Florida State University with a Master’s in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies, with an emphasis on Human Performance. Since joining the Sonny’s Franchise Company in 2001, Christie has helped oversee Sonny’s cultural initiatives, training and human resource programs, and team member performance and engagement. Christie has also been instrumental in organizational performance and franchise relations, as well as leading the corporate operations team.

Joe Tenczar

Chief Information Officer

Joe Tenczar joined Sonny’s Franchise Company in 2014 with a focus on creating the franchise restaurant technology blueprint of the future. His specialties include a strategic focus on emerging technology’s place in hospitality and understanding the overall tactical hospitality technology necessities. Tenczar also leads the finance and accounting and purchasing areas for Sonny’s. Joe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications and Computer Science from the University of Florida and an MBA from the Crummer Business School at Rollins College.

Ryan Mitchell

Senior Director of Marketing

Since joining the Sonny’s Franchise Company as Senior Director of Marketing in early 2016, Ryan Mitchell has been responsible for growing the Sonny’s BBQ brand and creating meaningful connections with its guests. This has included overseeing the continued success of the Sonny’s BBQ rebrand which has received rave reviews from existing and new guests alike. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a Master’s in Sports Business Management and a Juris Doctor—all from the University of Florida.

Leadership

Bob Yarmuth

CEO/Owner

Bob Yarmuth was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Michigan and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Louisville. Bob became a Sonny’s franchisee in 1980. In 1991, Bob and his cousin, Jeff, purchased Sonny’s from Sonny Tillman, the chain’s founder. Bob has served as Chief Executive Officer of Sonny’s Franchise Company since then.

Christie Schatz

VP, Operations & Culture

Christie Schatz graduated from Florida State University with a Master’s in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies, with an emphasis on Human Performance. Since joining the Sonny’s Franchise Company in 2001, Christie has helped oversee Sonny’s cultural initiatives, training and human resource programs, and team member performance and engagement. Christie has also been instrumental in organizational performance and franchise relations, as well as leading the corporate operations team.

Joe Tenczar

Chief Information Officer

Joe Tenczar joined Sonny’s Franchise Company in 2014 with a focus on creating the franchise restaurant technology blueprint of the future. His specialties include a strategic focus on emerging technology’s place in hospitality and understanding the overall tactical hospitality technology necessities. Tenczar also leads the finance and accounting and purchasing areas for Sonny’s. Joe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications and Computer Science from the University of Florida and an MBA from the Crummer Business School at Rollins College.

Ryan Mitchell

Senior Director of Marketing

Since joining the Sonny’s Franchise Company as Senior Director of Marketing in early 2016, Ryan Mitchell has been responsible for growing the Sonny’s BBQ brand and creating meaningful connections with its guests. This has included overseeing the continued success of the Sonny’s BBQ rebrand which has received rave reviews from existing and new guests alike. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a Master’s in Sports Business Management and a Juris Doctor—all from the University of Florida.

MARKETING

While franchisees are hard at work, BBQ HQ marketing tells the story of the brand through regional TV and radio spots, out-of-home and in-house ads, digital and social media. By highlighting the real stories of our Pitmasters, showing off delicious BBQ and embracing the BBQ culture, the ads showcase the authenticity of our food and brand.

INNOVATION

Menu innovation keeps the brand fresh and exciting and keeps customers coming back. Just like you wouldn’t make and serve the same food for every BBQ you throw, neither do we. New items like Redneck Egg Rolls, Fried Pickles and Certified Angus Brisket® have brought in new guests while allowing us to stay true to our roots. But innovation goes beyond new menu offerings. Our restaurants are equipped with leading-edge technologies that allow owners to instantly access and easily analyze sales, inventory and staffing information to make the best decisions in real time.

RANDOM ACTS OF BBQ

Being part of Sonny’s means you’re part of a company that believes in giving back to the community and going the extra mile for others. The main way we do this is through Random Acts of BBQ—an unexpected recognition of people who selflessly give their time and talent to others. The reward? A free BBQ with all the fixings. Random Acts of BBQ allow us put our values in action outside the walls of our restaurants and literally spread the spirit of BBQ—the food, the culture, the generosity, the kind-heartedness—out into our communities.

WHO WE’RE LOOKING FOR.

Our ideal franchisee is an honest, trustworthy and genuinely good person who puts others first. You must have a deep passion and knowledge of BBQ or be willing to learn from us. You should be an active member of your community and be committed to giving back every chance you get. But above all, you must have a burnin’ desire to throw a BBQ slathered in Southern hospitality, because that’s what we do every day.

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