Long-time leadership

A&W Restaurant franchises benefit from our consistent leadership. Most of our top positions haven’t changed since 2011 when our new ownership took over.

Another day, another email in your inbox announcing a new CEO at this restaurant or that franchise. That’s often followed quickly by a turnover of other high-ranking executives. The end result is often internal turmoil and franchisee dissatisfaction, especially since these turnovers tend to happen at the end of a disappointing quarter or year.

That’s not the case at A&W Restaurants. In 2011, a group of franchisees bought out the brand, and we still have the same leaders today: Chairman Dale Mulder, CEO Kevin Bazner, President & COO Paul Martino, VP of Restaurant Support Services Bill Fry and VP of Marketing Sarah Mueller.

Their success as a collaborative leadership team is evident in our sales increases. Since the 2011 change in ownership, our franchise has averaged a nearly 33% increase in sales. Our commitment to including franchisees in all of our decision-making is also evident.

“To operate a company such as A&W Restaurants you certainly have to leave your ego at the front door,” says Bazner. “If you’re going to be collaborative, which we have to be, you’ve got to be open to other people’s ideas.”

Two people's hands toasting with A&W Root Beer Mugs

A different kind of restaurant franchise

Like most franchises, A&W has a board of franchisee representatives whose job it is to bridge the divide between leadership and A&W restaurant owners. But in our case, NAWFA — the National A&W Franchisees Association — is more than just an advisory board. A&W and NAWFA collaborate on every important decision made. There is true representation here, and that’s not always the case with franchises.

More often than not, franchisee advisory councils are just that — advisory. But at A&W, we want everyone’s values aligned. Part of the reason we have such a strong and stable leadership team is because we make sure we understand the point of view of the franchisee — and we do that by walking a mile in their aprons, so to speak.

“I’m not a marketing guy or finance guy, I’m an operator who became CEO,” Bazner says. “I’ve washed dishes, been a line cook, been a bartender. That doesn’t make me smarter, it just puts me more in touch with what our operators deal with day to day.”

Once a quarter, everyone on our corporate team works a shift in an A&W Restaurant. It reminds them what it’s like to be in the trenches and helps them reconnect with the operational background so many of them come from. That’s true leadership, and it’s why we aren’t constantly having to change out our top executives.

Join our unique team

Learn more about becoming a part of the A&W franchise family. Fill out the form on this page to start a conversation, or explore our research pages to learn more about the franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!

A&W Franchise Review: Jason Kupfner, Director of Operations for Par Mar Oil

Following the success of their first A&W C-store in Ohio, Par Mar Oil just opened a second location — and more may be in the works

An A&W sign adorns the orange top of an exterior of a restaurant against a blue sky. Beneath the A&W sign is a smaller sign that reads, “All American Food.”

Jason Kupfner, Director of Retail Operations for Par Mar Oil, didn’t have any questions about what restaurant to pair with Par Mar’s convenience store operation in West Virginia. After their success with the A&W franchise in one of their Zanesville, Ohio, convenience stores, they were eager to try again. They just opened an A&W store in Pleasant Valley, West Virginia, in August. In this A&W franchise review, Kupfner talks about why the 113-store convenience and gas company likes partnering with A&W.

What made you decide to open an A&W next to or in your convenience store?
We had acquired an A&W C-store in Zanesville, Ohio, back in 2013, and it’s been very successful store for us. A&W was at the top of our list when we started looking in 2016 to add a restaurant to our Pleasant Valley, West Virginia, store. It’s taken us a while to get it up and running, but we’re excited to see how our new restaurant performs.

What appealed to you most about the A&W brand vs. another brand?
It’s a brand that’s been around for 100 years – you can’t do any better than that. It’s a brand that people recognize. Growing up, I remember going to A&W, and my mom even kept a baby mug in the kitchen that she’d gotten as a kid.

How did A&W’s corporate team guide you through the opening process?
The opening process was very structured. The weekly calls were very helpful. We had a plan, and the A&W team kept us on task. Your team had confidence in us and we made a good team together. The training staff that came to our restaurant were awesome, and they stayed with us for two weeks.

How much contact have you had with the corporate office since opening? Can you describe the ongoing support they’ve provided?
Our Franchise Growth Leader, Randy, has been our boots on the ground and he’s been very helpful. We’ve been in touch with people at the office. We feel very supported by the team.

How does A&W help with your C-store profitability?
We spent just under $300,000 for the restaurant conversion in Pleasant Valley; we did the build-out in a former Fazoli’s. A&W brings additional foot traffic into our stores. We estimate it will add significant revenue to our existing operation.

Are you planning to add more A&W franchises?
We are looking at another couple of sites. We are growing rapidly, and we will continue to consider A&W as we expand.

Would you recommend A&W to another C-store operator, and if so, why?
Yes, because working with A&W is not like working with any other QSR chains. Other brands have no flexibility. We like working with the A&W brand because they understand our partnership is give and take, they don’t just say “no.” They’re open-minded, and the team is always willing to share best practices.

Learn more

You can discover more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our website to read more A&W franchise reviews and learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity for your C&G operations. We look forward to hearing from you!

4 core strengths as a business opportunity

For more than 100 years, A&W Restaurants have been getting the job done. Here are 4 reasons behind our staying power.

A hand holds a Root Beer Float in an A&W-branded mug in the foreground while an out-of-focus bacon cheeseburger, fries and strawberry shake are seen in the background.

Every business has its brand pillars. For A&W Restaurants, three of our biggest strengths as a business opportunity are our near-universal brand recognition, our menu and our supply chain. Our franchisee ownership structure is the cherry on top.

Here’s a look at four of the pillars of our brand and how they benefit franchisees.

Supply chain advantage

One of the biggest advantages we have in 2019 is our supply chain vendor Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions (RSCS).

RSCS is a major buying co-op that handles supply and distribution for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, three of the largest franchises in the U.S. That means great prices on food, paper and restaurant equipment for our franchisees. The fact that RSCS is already servicing tens of thousands of restaurants means there’s nowhere in the country they can’t go. That gives our owner-operators the kind of buying power and reach usually afforded only to much larger franchise systems. That’s a boon for our small-town franchise owners as well as multi-unit developers who want to delve into new territories.

“The relationship we have with RSCS is probably one of the more unique things that we have going for us,” says franchisee Tom Thompson of Dubuque, Iowa. “I don’t know how many other smaller brands can say that they’re associated with a food-purchasing co-op with equipment-purchasing benefits as well. That’s a tremendous advantage for A&W.”

Our menu advantage

Hot-off-the-grill burgers. Hand-breaded chicken tenders. Root Beer floats. What’s not to love? A&W’s menu has broad appeal. Is it trendy? No. But the burger category continues to rule, comprising 44%, or over $90 billion, of sandwich sales in 2016, according to research firm Technomic. And our unique brand of hip nostalgia has been great at attracting customers since 1919.

Back in those days, we served up our fresh-made Root Beer in cold, frosty glass mugs. In 2019, we still do. People are nostalgic for those kinds of small pleasures, and it makes a difference in customer engagement.

Our brand recognition

Who hasn’t heard of A&W? We’ve been serving customers nationwide for the last century, and we have generations of brand recognition. Just about everyone has a fond memory of heading out with a date or with their family, enjoying a creamy, delicious ice-cold Root Beer Float and some Papa Burgers and Cheese Curds. Customers not only know A&W — franchisees typically hear a lot of excitement when they announce that they’re bringing an A&W Restaurant to town.

Our ownership structure

Perhaps A&W Restaurants’ most remarkable distinction is the way the brand’s ownership is structured. We are franchisee-owned. Our stakeholders are our franchisees, and every decision is collaborative. This business isn’t run by some ivory-tower MBA who has never seen the inside of a kitchen and doesn’t even eat the food here. We live it, and breathe it. Everyone in our corporate office works inside a restaurant at least once a quarter so we can experience the brand ourselves — and see first-hand how brand decisions play out for local restaurants.

Franchise owners play a key role in every decision through the National A&W Franchisees Association (NAWFA) Board, which approves all decisions in concert with our Executive Team. There is true representation here, and that’s not always the case with franchises.

Learn more

Learn more about becoming a part of the A&W franchise family. Fill out the form on this page to start a conversation, or explore our website to learn more about the franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!