Via Via $500,000 bites for green cards, Sonic funds first two South Florida drive-ins
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Sonic is taking a bite of South Florida's fast-food business, with its first two locations set to open this year and two more under contract to close.
Miami-based development firm QueensFort Capital Corp. bought exclusive development rights in South Florida to build and operate Sonic restaurants, with 50 locations eyed for Miami-Dade and Broward in the next four years.
The company is raising capital to build and operate the Sonic restaurants by attracting internationals to invest in these restaurants in exchange for a green card.
The first Sonic is to open in Homestead this summer, followed by the Fort Lauderdale Beach location to open about a month or two after, said Carolina Oliva, QueensFort Capital's senior vice president.
Sites in Miami Gardens and Lauderhill are under contract with deposits and the transactions should close in the next couple of months, she said.
"We have already identified the first eight out of 13 EB-5 investors for the Miami Gardens and Lauderhill locations," Ms. Oliva said. "We've been able to do that in three and a half weeks."
These two locations are next to begin construction.
Through the government's EB-5 visa program, foreign nationals are investing $500,000 apiece in these restaurants that are to create about 65 jobs each and, in return, are to get a green card.
Among internationals financing the Sonic expansion are Chinese, Venezuelans and Mexicans.
With its slogan of America's drive-in, Sonic is the US's largest chain of drive-ins, with more than 3,500 eateries throughout the nation that serve classic American food.
The '50s-style restaurant offers customers the drive-in option, where they order into a speaker and wait in their car for a waiter on roller skates to deliver their meal on wheels.
Sonic is not only known for its extensive menu of American food favorites, but also for its assortment of desserts, milkshakes and ice cream.
Because of South Florida's "year-around warm temperature, the whole 1950s feel and look of the restaurant, plus the fact there isn't one here, it [Sonic] will be very well received," Ms. Oliva said.
Other target Miami-Dade locations for future Sonics are Miami Beach, South Miami and Kendall.
The company has 20 more sites in the pipeline for Sonics in Miami-Dade and Broward, but is doing its due diligence to ensure the locations are a good fit.
The process has several key phases.
"You have to identify the site, you have to do market research to make sure it's a good site, it has to have a lot of traffic and be near big-box retail," Ms. Oliva explained. "Then, the negotiation starts with the buyer and seller and then, the permitting process."
Queensfort Capital intends to buy most of the sites to build the restaurants from the ground up.
So far, the firm is taking advantage of more-favorable market conditions to close deals.
"We are acquiring land at 50% to 60% discount," she said, adding "it's definitely the time to be buying."
To acquire the land and build each Sonic requires about a $3.5 million investment.
"As long as we raise EB-5 capital funds, we'll be moving with those [sites] quickly," Ms. Oliva foresees. "We feel comfortable that we'll be successful."
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