The Sonic Drive-In located at 2092 Whiskey Road is in it to win it. A team from the fast food restaurant will be aiming for the top when it journeys to New Orleans next month to compete in the finals of the Dr Pepper Sonic Games.

“We’re not going just for the experience,” said Keith Krooss, who is the operating partner for the Whiskey Road Sonic. “We want gold medals. We will give 110 percent every second that we are there.”

This year’s Sonic Games involved 2,800 Sonic Drive-Ins from around the country, and only 12 qualified to send teams to the last stage of the contest. The Kermark Group of Evans, Georgia, operates four of the finalists, including the Whiskey Road Sonic and the Sonic located at 1036 Edgefield Road in North Augusta.

“Our crew here is very excited; this is the first time that we’ve made it to the finals,” Krooss said. “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 15 or 16 years, and this is one of the best groups of people that I’ve had, based on personality, enthusiasm, sense of urgency, overall character and work ethic.”

The early stages of the Sonic Games competition took place at the local market level. The contest kicked off in January, and much of it involved an evaluation of performance in such areas as customer service, everyday operations and maintaining health standards, according to Krooss. Employee expertise in various jobs also was important in the process that narrowed down the field.

“There were tests, and ‘secret shoppers’ came to our restaurant and graded us,” Krooss said.

He described the push to make it to the finals as “an entire store effort.”

The Whiskey Road Sonic has 30 to 40 employees on its payroll at any given time. The restaurant’s team members for the Sonic Games finals and their specialties are Sarah Davis, carhop; Kayla Sweet, switchboard (order taking); Tyaire Washington, fountain (drink preparation); Alicia Heath, food dresser; Patty Green, grill; and Cornelius Frazier, food preparation (fryer operator).

On their all-expenses-paid trip to New Orleans, they will compete as a team and individually on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded afterward.

The Sonic Games finals will precede the Sonic National Convention Sept. 9 through 11.

“I am very excited; I think we are capable of winning because we have confidence and trust in ourselves,” said Green, who has worked at the Whiskey Road Sonic for seven years and is taking online classes to earn a master’s degree in elementary education from Grand Canyon University.

Heath, who is an assistant manager at the Whiskey Road Sonic, added, “I’m very excited, too. A lot of people didn’t think we could make it this far, but we did. We were really dedicated, and we worked hard to follow procedures.”

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.