Dan Drust

Software Engineer
based in West Michigan

Writing Raw SQL in Laravel

19 August 2020

I’m working on an application in the retail space which requires the system to fetch a set of UPCs that are associated with a user. To get from a user to a UPC we first need to look at the user’s loyalty accounts with one or more retailers, then the retailers’ relationship with one or more distributors, and finally query for UPCs (which are related to the relationship between a distributor and retailer).

This involes traversing a number of foreign-key relationship in the data model:

That amount of complexity didn’t seem to play nicely with Laravel’s Eloquent ORM out of the box. Eloquent is more than sufficient for 80% of our query needs so extending the ORM didn’t seem like the best move in this case. I’d write some raw SQL, but where?

I’ve been trying to keep some good architectural boundaries in this application by using services to hold single units of business logic and repositories to house persistence and retrieval code. A repository is exactly where this kind of thing should live, but I liked the idea of keeping the SQL even more separate.

What I landed on was a SQL file and a query object to wrap it, all hidden behind a repository.

In the examples below, given a user id and a UPC, the system should return a distributor-retailer relationship.

First I wrote some SQL:

-- database/sql/UpcAttributionLookup.sql

    users u
    JOIN loyalty_accounts la ON u.id = la.user_id
    JOIN distributor_retailer dr ON dr.retailer_id = la.retailer_id
    JOIN distributor_retailer_upc dru ON dr.id = drs.distributor_retailer_id
    JOIN upc u ON dru.upc_id = s.id
    u.id = @user_id
    AND u.code = @upc
    la.rank ASC

And then a plain old PHP object to wrap it. This will load the SQL file, replace the @user_id and @upc variables, and execute the query. Finally it will return the first row of data (represented as a standard object) or null:

// app/Queries/UpcAttributionLookup.php


namespace App\Queries;

use Illuminate\Support\Facades\DB;
use Illuminate\Support\Str;

class UpcAttributionLookup 
    const SQL_FILE_PATH = '/database/sql/UpcAttributionLookup.sql';
    const USER_ID_REPLACE = '@user_id';
    const UPC_REPLACE = '@upc';

    protected $rawSql;
    public function  __construct()
        $this->rawSql = file_get_contents(base_path().self::SQL_FILE_PATH);

    public function toSql($user_id, $upc) : string
        $sql = $this->rawSql;
        $sql = Str::replaceFirst(self::USER_ID_REPLACE, $user_id, $sql);
        $sql = Str::replaceFirst(self::UPC_REPLACE, "'{$upc}'", $sql);
        return $sql;

    public function get($user_id, $upc)
        $result = DB::select($this->toSql($user_id, $upc));

        return empty($result) ? null : $result[0];

Since this query is returning a row of data that’s represented by the DistributorRetailer entity, the DistributorRetailerRepository hides it’s implementation:

// app/Repositories/DistributorRetailerRepository.php


namespace App\Repositories;

use App\DistributorRetailer;
use App\Entities\UserEntity;
use App\Queries\UpcAttributionLookup;

class DistributorRetailerRepository 

    public function findOneByUserAndUpc(UserEntity $user, string $upc) {
        $query = new UpcAttributionLookup;
        $result = $query->get($user->id, $upc);

        if ($result) {
            $attributes = (array)$result;
            $distributorRetailer = (new DistributorRetailer)->newFromBuilder($attributes);
            $result = $distributorRetailer;

        return $result;


Notice that if the result is not null I initialize a new DistributorRetailer model and call newFromBuilder with the data returned from the query. This is right from Eloquent’s implementation – newFromBuilder will initialize a new model instance from the results of Eloquent’s query builder class. This means that my query will return an Eloquent model just the same.

I’m happy with how organized this tunred out. Looking at the file structure it’s relatively clear what’s going on and I don’t have raw SQL mixing about with my PHP application code.

+- app
|  +- Repositories 
|  |  +- DistributorRetailerRepository.php
|  |
|  +- Queries
|     +- UpcAttributionLookup.sql
+- database
   +- sql
      +- UpcAttributionLookup.sql

Written by Dan Drust on 19 August 2020

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