A message from Kevin Bazner, CEO:
When A&W’s franchise partners bought the company from YUM! Brands and I returned as CEO, we created a few guiding principles. Building profitable, same-store sales and engaging our franchise leadership in every key decision topped the list.
Today our focus has shifted to protecting sales, while our franchise leaders are busy managing challenges never before experienced. Yet, we remain committed to our guiding principles, using them to steer us through this crisis. It’s paying off.
Today, more than 90 percent of our restaurants are open, with an increasing number participating in our new delivery partnerships with DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, and ChowNow. I was thrilled when some owners of seasonal A&Ws decided to open early, even in the middle of the crisis, to serve their communities. We’re seeing sales stabilize, with some locations reporting growth; we’re optimistic sales will improve as more consumers receive stimulus checks and continue adapting to their conditions.
To protect our franchisees’ investments, A&W deferred royalty payments and suspended advertising contributions for March and April. Other franchisors have taken similar actions, but we went one step further, completely refunding all advertising account balances.
In keeping with our guiding principle to engage our franchise partners, these decisions were made in conjunction with our franchise association executive board, whose meetings increased from once a week to three.
Together, we developed a plan that includes system-wide webinars, also held three times a week, on topics ranging from SBA loans to delivery. I serve as host, with members of our support center team presenting on current events, timely topics, and evolving conditions.
Our R&D and marketing teams quickly developed new family packs and supporting materials, while our supply chain co-op, RSCS, kept provisions coming and sourced hard-to-get sanitizers, masks, and other protective equipment.
Karen Cary, a long-time, multi-unit franchise partner in California emailed me the other day with a touching message. “I’m writing to tell you how impressed I am with the great job that you and your staff at A&W Corporate are doing to assist the franchisees during this crisis. You all show so much compassion and dedication, and I know that you know exactly what each franchisee is feeling and how frightened many are. I’ve never seen this level of help before. It is a pleasure and comfort to have leaders who are A&W people at heart and who work with – and for – the franchisee community.”
To Karen and all of our franchise partners, thanks for all you do! You are the reason that A&W is still going strong after nearly 101 years and why we will emerge together even stronger when the crisis passes.