The Daily Review/Bill Decker
Members of the Patterson Sonic's Red Button Express are, front row from left: Renata Taylor, Devonne Canty, Lakeisha Baker, Samantha Mullally, Jonquil Nerve and Diana Wilson. In back are J.J. Kleles and Patricia Kleles.
Patterson Sonic crew earns place in Washington competition
PATTERSON — As ESPN might put it, they could go all the way.
Football season may just be getting started, but the crew at the Sonic restaurant in Patterson has already qualified for the postseason. The restaurant’s team — the Patterson Red Button Express, named for the iconic outdoor ordering systems — will go to Washington, D.C., Sept. 9-10 to compete in the finals of the Dr Pepper Sonic Games.
“They treat them like rock stars,” said Lori Moresi, a Sonic marketing director. “They pick them up at the airport in a limo. They take them to the Gaylord (National Harbour).”
They’re one of 12 teams still in the running. About 2,800 of the 3,500 Sonic restaurants started the annual competition, Moresi said
The competition helps Sonic employees learn how to serve customers better, said managing partner Patricia Kleles.
The competition sounds grueling.
There are specialties: food safety, order taking, drink preparation, frozen treat preparation, carhop guest service and delivery, and monthly promotions.
There’s training on computers. There’s a knowledge bowl competition. There are unannounced shopping visits by Sonic people posing as customers.
Competitors are winnowed down to 1,000, then to 500, then 50, and finally to the 12 who will go to Washington.
“We’re going to go for the gold,” Kleles said.
Making the finals has been a goal of manager J.J. Kleles for the last seven years. Patterson never quite made it until this year, when “we got lucky,” he said.
Patricia Kleles and Moresi were having none of that.
“They fought very hard,” J.J. Kleles said finally. “They worked very hard.”
Members of the Red Button team include Renata Taylor, Devonne Canty, Lakeisha Baker, Samantha Mullally, Jonquil Nerve and Diana Wilson.
Members of the Knowledge Bowl team include Nerve, Vicki Kleles, Chelsea Pierce, Linda Campbell, Brenda Sampey, Korah Parker and J.J. Kleles.
Along with Patterson, teams from these Sonics were in the top 12: Boise, Idaho; Cameron, Missouri; El Paso, Texas; Eustace, Texas; two from Knoxville, Tennessee; Madison, Alabama; Marshall, Arkansas; Spanish Fort, Alabama; and Summertown, Tennessee.
A team from Breaux Bridge qualified in the top 12 in 2017.