What we’re really supplying with our supply chain

We’re better than a better-burger franchise. We’ve got the supply-side muscle to prove it.

A hand holds a branded A&W | All American Food mug with a root beer float. In the background a woman has a pile of fries and a burger on a tray next to a pink milkshake in another branded mug.

A&W Restaurants franchise is somewhere in the in-between. And by in-between, in this instance, we mean in between fast-food chains and better-burger franchises. We mean in between a small up-and-comer and a multi-thousand multi-national chain.

We’ve got a healthy 550-and-growing number of franchises here in the U.S. and another 350+ overseas. We’ve got 101 years in business. And we have restaurants tucked in some very far-away places. For an ordinary franchise of our size, that could pose some serious logistical problems.

But A&W has a serious work-around by the name of Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions (RSCS). 

Efficiencies of scale

RSCS is a longtime vendor that dates back to the days before 2011, when we were owned by YUM! Brands. Although a group of franchisee investors bought back the A&W brand in 2011, we kept the things that worked, and that included our relationship with the largest restaurant equipment and food supplier in the nation.

As a vendor partner of YUM!, RSCS supplies three major chains: KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That’s a combined 16,000+ locations nationwide, which is far more expansive than a better-burger franchise of 550+ units. That’s particularly helpful when you have a legacy restaurant chain like A&W, which has been around since 1919. We have some far-flung locations that are so off the beaten path, they would be prohibitively expensive to supply with a vendor partner that had smaller territories.

The involvement of RSCS was critical in the early days of the pandemic: They played a key role in providing PPE to our franchise operators, from hand sanitizer to masks. As Senior Vice President of Restaurant Support Services and Supply Chain Management Bill Fry wrote in a blog last year, “Working with RSCS allows A&W operators to purchase goods and services at lower costs than our competition because RSCS is the purchasing co-op for YUM! Brands. If we were trying to buy masks just for ourselves, that’s not a good position to be in. Instead, we are leveraging the buying power of brands many times our size.”

A difference in the bottom line

That kind of buying power helps franchisees achieve impressive results. A&W has experienced a 40% increase in our base brand AUVs since 2011, and we’ve also logged nine consecutive years of positive sales growth.

A&W franchise owners benefit from our long-standing vendor partnership with RSCS, gleaning the kind of cost savings and wider profit margins that are usually found at much larger franchises. But they also benefit from the close-knit bonds that stem from a franchise run by its franchisees.

Everyone has the contact info for our CEO Kevin Bazner, who has 40 years of experience in restaurants and franchising but can still go behind the counter and fry up a batch of our customer favorite Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders. Like everyone else on our Restaurant Support Center team, he works in one of our restaurants once a quarter. We’re in constant communication with our franchisees so that we can collectively make the decisions that are best for all involved.

Our attention to the bottom line and our commitment to nurturing beneficial vendor relationships like the one we have with RSCS are some of the many reasons why the A&W legacy is still going strong more than a century later.

Learn more

We have many territory opportunities available. You can discover more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W franchise brand.

The Magic of the Drive-Thru

Here’s how we pulled 2020 out of the fire and outperformed everyone else in the burger franchise category

Kevin Bazner

Kevin Bazner

Eight consecutive months of double-digit year-over-year sales growth would be an accomplishment in any year. But when that year was 2020, and every other burger franchise was struggling just to stay flat? We can pat ourselves and our franchisees on the back for this one.

The reality is, though, strong sales performance is not new. A&W Restaurants have nine straight years on the books with positive sales growth, with our base brand AUVs up over 40% on average. Our performance during the pandemic is no fluke; it’s the result of a well-informed strategy and a lot of hard work. And the real “secret sauce” in our winning formula is no secret at all: It’s the drive-thru.

“It’s no secret these days that drive-thru is king, right? No question about it. And that’s where we’ve focused the majority of our efforts,” says CEO Kevin Bazner.

Our drive-thru sales strategy

Although A&W pivoted quickly last March and April to provide safe pick-up and delivery, our sales increases were far and away the biggest in those restaurants — the majority of our 550+ stateside locations — with drive-thrus. So that’s where we threw our focus.

It became all about speed of order. We worked with our operators on getting a second makeshift drive-thru ordering point. Some people put extra staff outside with tablets to quickly log in orders. “We were pulling every car aside, pulling them ahead, bringing their food out to just keep the cars moving,” says Bazner.

Customers, craving the better-quality burgers and comfort food they knew they could count on from A&W, showed their appreciation.

Sales jumped up 15% percent in May compared to the same month in 2019, and they went up 16% percent in June. The sales juggernaut continued month after month, all the way through December. Pizza was an early favorite pandemic-meal go-to, but when people tired of it, they returned to the brands they knew and loved — like A&W.

We did everything we could to support our franchisees along the way. In those early difficult months, we deferred royalty payments and refunded most of their marketing fees. A&W already had the infrastructure in place to amp up local store marketing to let consumers know we were open — safely — for business. 

And when we saw the huge uptick in drive-thru traffic, we knew we were onto something.

How will this affect 2021 sales?

The drive-thru is having a moment. Some A&W locations, catching on early, have already added a second menu-board and ordering point in their drive-thrus to handle increased traffic. And to encourage others, we are finalizing a program to allow all of our restaurants to make investments in — and even direct some local store marketing funds toward — the consumer drive-thru experience.  

That may include re-striping parking lots and updating signage and menu boards outside the restaurant to improve the customer experience as seen from the drive-thru. “It’s basically doing a very cost-effective remodel on the drive-thru without touching the inside of the restaurant,” Bazner says.

No one can predict what 2021 might have in store, but so far, sales are performing well. We anticipate the drive-thru trend will continue, certainly through the first two quarters of the year. There may be some recalibrating in the second half of 2021, depending on where the world is. 

A&W’s leadership will be here, working with operators to keep costs down and sales up, just like we’ve done since we purchased the brand in 2011. We’ll keep following the COVID safety protocols for our guests and our team members and we’ll keep leading the burger franchise pack. For now, all our focus is on that drive-thru experience, coupled with maintaining our same great delicious All-American comfort food.

“We still believe it’s the number one thing we can do to satisfy the increased consumer demand for our brand today,” Bazner says.

Learn more

Pick a better burger franchise. A&W has franchise opportunities nationwide. Learn more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W franchise brand.