|Founder||Floyd 'Sonny' Tillman|
|Headquarters||Winter Park, Florida, United States|
Number of locations
|Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee|
|Sonny Tillman, John Yarmuth|
Sonny's BBQ is a barbecue restaurant chain founded by Floyd “Sonny” Tillman in Gainesville, Florida in 1968. Bob Yarmuth purchased the company in 1991 and continues as the company’s owner and CEO today. Sonny's BBQ now has 122 restaurants across nine Southeastern states and is headquartered in Winter Park, Florida. The restaurant specializes in Southern-style BBQ.
Sonny’s BBQ was founded in 1968 by Floyd “Sonny” Tillman and his wife Lucille. They started with a single location in Gainesville, Florida. The company began franchising nine years later in 1977 with a menu consisting of pork, beef, ribs, chicken, beans and other sides. In 1988, Sonny’s BBQ had grown to 77 restaurants across six states and Tillman sold the company to outside investors. In 1991, Bob Yarmuth purchased the company.
During the 2000s, Sonny’s was the largest BBQ restaurant chain in the United States, with about 150 locations across nine states. In 2011, the company had 125 operating franchised restaurants. In 2012, the company moved its headquarters to Winter Park, Florida and in 2013, the company changed its name from Sonny’s Real Pit-Bar-B-Q to Sonny’s BBQ.
Sonny Tillman’s birthday is celebrated as a special event by the restaurant each August 14. Despite selling the franchise, Tillman retained ownership of the original Sonny’s BBQ until 2011, when he relinquished his franchisee agreement. Afterwards he continued to attend grand openings, sometimes appearing in commercials, and participating in other events. Events held by Sonny’s include its Random Acts of BBQ events, where individual restaurants provide a BBQ feast for community volunteers and volunteer organizations.
On September 25, 2008, Greater Atlanta Bar-B-Q (the only Metro Atlanta franchisee of Sonny's) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for ten locations, four of which were closed completely, raising concerns about another restaurant's viability after Metromedia Restaurant Group closed its Bennigan's and Steak and Ale restaurant chains. Yet as of the first week of June in 2009, it came out of bankruptcy completing Chapter 11 requirements. On October 15, 2008, all three Sonny's locations in the greater Daytona Beach area, Florida were closed. As of December 1, 2009, the Tifton, Georgia restaurant became known as the Smokehouse Restaurant due to disputes with Sonny's over imagery and icons in the restaurant itself and on employees' clothing.
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- Trubey, J. Scott (2008-09-25). "Operator of 10 Sonny's restaurants files for Chapter 11". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
- Sonny's in Daytona Closes but Chain is Poised for Growth
- Thompson, Angie (2009-12-01). "Tifton Gazette - Tifton restaurant owner loses Sonny's franchise". Tifton Gazette. Tifton Gazette. Retrieved 2009-12-16.