By Dave Crowley, Director of Franchise Recruitment
Growing up in small-town Yale, Michigan in the 1990s, Mike Vinckier personally knew the owners of the local A&W restaurant, which still serves the best burgers in town. “I have so many memories of going after basketball games or for lunch with my family. We only had a few restaurants in town, and the A&W was the best — it was the hot spot with a prized corner booth.”
Years later, those fond memories would play into Mike’s decision to franchise with A&W, opening their first restaurant in Almont, Michigan, and another in Marysville. A restaurant in Kimball Township is scheduled for 2021.
The Vinckier family’s entrepreneurial tradition runs the gamut from real estate, construction, grocery, and hardware stores to a gas station, and of course, A&W All American Food. Mike studied food management in college, making for a natural transition to the restaurant business.
“Dad had extra land in front of our grocery store in Almont. We wanted a complement to our grocery business, not something that would take business away,” Mike recalled. They looked at several restaurant chains before connecting with A&W.
“A&W is a quality brand with great quality food,” Mike said. “Once we started talking with A&W, it was ‘game over’ for us. The service and support we’ve received has been great. You talk to the person in charge, not just an admin.”
The same applies with the National A&W Franchise Advisory Board (NAWFA), which allows any franchisee to sit in on its meetings. Mike made the trip to Kentucky and recalled, “The franchisees on the NAWFA Board had so much to share, and it was so cool to see big franchisees sitting next to smaller ‘one shop’ operators … from the Midwest to West Coast, all sizes of operations.”
Mike learned things he never knew about the A&W business at that board meeting. “The product development and food offerings were almost overwhelming; I didn’t realize how much went into developing products.” He looks forward to attending future board meetings, especially since few other franchise brands are so open and transparent.
At the same time, he witnessed similarities between his family’s business and A&W’s operations. “We believe that you can’t ask someone to do something that you aren’t prepared to do – and the A&W corporate team is the same.”
The Vinckiers chose to convert an old Pizza Hut in Marysville for their second location. Mike admits it was hard to picture initially. “Start by imagining the roofline in A&W orange,” he suggested. Despite demolishing nearly the entire building, the conversion was cost-effective and performance has far exceeded expectations.
A&W is known for its design flexibility, which allows franchisees to convert existing buildings, such as banks, other QSR buildings, and even a casino cafe, into outposts for All American Food. That came in handy for Mike Vinckier, who fondly recalls the corner booth in his hometown A&W.
“We had to put a corner booth in our own A&W Restaurant. It is always the first spot guests choose to sit in, and it reminds us of the Yale A&W we grew up with. We love that we can pass this special experience down to our guests.”