Chairman Dale Mulder talks about A&W Restaurants’ next 100 years in Restaurant Business magazine

Dale Mulder

A&W Restaurants has had a banner year, celebrating our 100th anniversary in business. At 576 locations open or in development nationwide, we’re continuing to strategically grow our brand.

A&W Restaurants have been known and loved for a century, and in a recent article in Restaurant Business magazine, Chairman Dale Mulder shared some of his personal history with A&W. He’s seen quite a lot of it.

Mulder, a multi-unit franchisee with 15 stores who previously served as President of A&W Restaurants Inc., is “enthusiastically watching how the 100-year-old operation is preparing itself for its next century — in large part by trying to remain true to its past,” the magazine wrote.

“I’d say 90, 95% of our success comes from getting back to our roots—having frozen mugs in every restaurant, getting back to making A&W in every restaurant,” Mulder told the magazine.

A rich history

Mulder, as our longest-standing franchisee, has witnessed “virtually every key development for the restaurant brand” in the past 70 years, first as a customer, later as a food company salesman for A&W and eventually as a franchisee and later, President.

Through different owners and consumer trends, the brand has sailed through ups and downs. As the magazine wrote, “A&W has experienced a brand resurgence. About two years ago, the chain’s 600 U.S. restaurants resumed making their root beer on premise, using sugar and a wooden paddle like the one that stirred the mugful Mulder tipped back as a boy. The chain’s signature product is served once again in a frosty mug like the one Mulder clutched, not the paper cups that crept into use as A&W aged.

“But recapturing the delight he knew as a boy is ‘what’ll build our brand back,’ says Mulder, noting that a new A&W unit took in $11,000 on its first day in business. ‘We’re 98% there.’”

The most significant development in recent history was in 2011, when Yum Brands decided to sell off A&W. That’s when “Mulder reached out to A&W’s Asian franchisee and the U.S. franchise community to buy the chain. ‘Now we control our own destiny,’ he says.

“The first call Mulder remembers making as he put together the buying group was to Kevin Bazner, a former executive of A&W… He agreed to come aboard as CEO, with the mission of recapturing the brand’s former glory.

“‘He’s done a fabulous job for us,’ Mulder says. ‘We’re back in a growth mode. We have 16 or 17 restaurants under development.’”

What’s next for A&W Restaurants

As for Bazner, he believes A&W’s secret to the last 100 years will take us through the next 100 equally well: operational excellence.

“The one thing that’s been consistently there throughout all our years in business is our operators,” Bazner says. “Through all our ups and downs, it always comes back to our operators. Their tenacity, their sheer willpower, have really made A&W what it is today.”

Staying current

What it is today is a nearly 600-unit chain of restaurants that is counted among America’s favorite brands. Our franchisees have enjoyed 32% average same-store sales increases since 2011, and our executive leadership hasn’t changed in that time — unlike the turnover many brands experience.

We understand the need to stay current — our social media presence is very popular among consumers — while also remaining true to the things that customers have always loved about A&W Restaurants.

A&W is focusing on building out our freestanding restaurants, and we welcome multi- and single-unit investors alike to join our franchise family.

Learn more

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