Franchisees know what’s best for franchisees

A&W ownership works for franchisees because we’re owned by franchisees

Exterior of an A&W restaurant, including signage that reads, “A&W | All American Food”

A brand guided by its franchisees is one that focuses on long-term profitability, recurring cash floor and strong unit-level economics. We have our eyes on the future, not the short-term collection of royalty fees to help us flip the brand with the next private equity firm dangling a check.

In other words, we have no exit strategy, and we’re very proud of that.

Franchisee involvement

Kevin Klein, our current NAWFA Chairman who owns the franchise in Birch Run, MI, wrote last May that “Critical communications and feedback between team members continue to take high priority. And I don’t know of any CEO who hosted national webinars three times a week with franchisees, as Kevin Bazner did.

“Together, we addressed evolving issues, such as restaurant cash flow and royalties, new local store marketing family bundles, delivery options, and personal protection equipment acquisition. As a result, more than 90% of A&W restaurants operated through the crisis, and sales are returning to pre-virus levels.”

We keep it real

A&W is owned by a group of national and international franchisees and NAWFA, our franchisee advisory council. The National A&W Franchise Association board, comprised of franchisees from across the country, from single-unit owners to multi-unit investors, was critical in restructuring our business model when we bought the franchise from YUM! Brands in 2011.

Our leadership team is invested in every aspect of the A&W brand, and NAWFA helps keep everyone on track by making decisions from the perspective of the people who are on the front lines, so to speak, of the day-to-day operations. Even our corporate employees understand how everything works: Everyone at the Restaurant Support Center puts on an apron and works a shift in an A&W restaurant.

It keeps us grounded and very focused on what our franchise owners actually face day to day. That makes a difference when it comes to decision-making. And on the flip side, franchisees who develop close relationships with leadership can make meaningful contributions to the business.

Consider our Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders. That recipe came from franchisee Linda Mulder, who impressed customers and won over franchisees, thanks to more manageable prep and lower food costs. They were a big improvement over our old chicken tenders, became a best-selling menu item and ultimately led to higher AUVs.

Other franchisors talk about how their franchisees have a voice in decision making. Our franchisees are actually making the decisions.

A&W is America’s first and oldest restaurant chain, A&W still makes Root Beer fresh in each restaurant from real cane sugar, water and a proprietary blend of herbs, bark, spices and berries that are served in a frosty mug alongside burgers, fries, chicken tenders and other All American Food® favorites. There are nearly 1,000 locations worldwide.

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 research pages to learn more about A&W franchise, America’s first and oldest restaurant chain.

Request Franchise Info - Main form (Routing Dropdown)

Fill out this form to receive your free A&W Franchise Information report.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A big boost for 2021 sales

A&W franchise sales are anticipated to get their biggest boost this year from the drive-thru, so we’re helping franchisees get ready

Cars line up around an A&W drive through. A sign on the exterior wall reads A&W Sweets & Treats.

One of the most unexpected wins from 2020 was discovering how important our drive-thru was. At a time when consumers became reticent about dining in or even walking inside restaurants to pick up orders, food places that already had drive-thrus — like most of our 550+ U.S. locations — were in a good position.

A&W doubled down on executing speed-of-order to accommodate the additional drive-thru traffic. As a result, we saw double-digit, year-over-year sales beginning in May and continuing every month through December.

“We saw sales start to mount by mid-April as people were growing tired of being cooped up and cooking at home,” says CEO Kevin Bazner. “We realized it was all coming through the drive-thru. Very little of it at that time was even coming from carry-out. So we started focusing on our drive-thru service right then and there, and we got the message out to consumers through local store marketing.”

Even as more people get vaccinated and we’re starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, some consumer behaviors may continue. We’re anticipating that will be the case for the increased popularity of the A&W drive-thru, so we’ll be focusing on that part of our business in 2021.

Drive-thrus get a glow-up

Instead of spending capital on a full remodel for the entire restaurant, some franchisees are choosing to spruce up the outside of the building instead. With so much attention on drive-thru ordering, A&W is concentrating on making sure the high-traffic space looks even more appealing.

A new program allows franchisees to divert some of their local store marketing funds toward improving the look and functionality of their outdoor space. Franchisees are updating menu boards, adding a second point-of-order to the drive-thru, adding landscaping and re-striping and sealing parking lots. Everything is being viewed through the lens of the consumer experience, from the all-important speed-of-order to pulling up to a speaker with an unobstructed view of the menu board and clear audio.

It’s especially important because our drive-thru service drew new customers last year. “Everything’s going through one point at the drive-thru,” Bazner says. “That’s where the manager is focused. That’s where the owner is focused. And although we don’t have all the data yet, anecdotally, they’re saying we’re seeing a lot of new customers.”

A&W franchise had a strong head-start on the increased interest in drive-thrus industry-wide, and that’s why we’re continuing our full-court press. “Drive-thrus became our core business,” says Bazner. “We know that space, we can layer on other off-premise delivery services and online ordering on top of that.

“I look at that as white space that we can continue to build on, no matter what happens next.”

Learn more

A&W has franchise opportunities nationwide. If you’d like to be part of our national expansion, please fill out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W franchise brand.

Request Franchise Info - Main form (Routing Dropdown)

Fill out this form to receive your free A&W Franchise Information report.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

QSR features A&W’s resilience during the pandemic

Double-digit sales and customer loyalty kept our franchises running, and we’re bringing that good mojo into 2021

Cars circle an A&W restaurant as they pick up orders and exit the drive-thru on a sunny day.

We circled our wagons early on in 2020 because we knew we needed a strategy that would see us through the pandemic. No one knew how bad it would be or how long it would last, but businesses — especially in the restaurant industry — were hanging in the balance.

Ideas were tossed around, and ultimately we stuck with doubling down on our core strengths: Quality comfort food, speed of service, and relying largely on drive-thrus, we found a way to keep our guests and our employees as safe as possible. 

What happened was an 8.5% increase in same-store sales in 2020, our ninth consecutive year of positive sale growth. That momentum has spilled over into 2021 as we’ve continued to log double-digit sales increases. CEO Kevin Bazner spoke about these results recently with QSR magazine, which praised A&W for its resilience during the global crisis.

‘Our current normal’

In talking about how A&W approached the challenge in the early days of the 2020 crisis, QSR wrote, in part:

In that March-April run, though, Bazner says a lot of ideas came up. But when comps surged, it was almost like A&W held its breath. “I think every week we were pinching ourselves. Is this a bump? Is this a head fake? Are we going to go back into the dumpster tomorrow and into next week?” Bazner says.

Instead, one week passed, and then another. Weeks turned into months. Sales jumped 15 percent in May and 16 percent in June. Then, 2021 approached and A&W realized something about the so-called “new normal” Bazner kept hearing about.

“I’ve said all along, this is our current normal,” he says. “Just continue doing what we do. Quality to our guests, with our food and our service and our assets, and [guests] will come. They’ll keep coming.”

Another 100 years

Is A&W unstoppable? No brand can truly claim to be, but we can tell you this: We are a resilient franchise. We’ve been going strong since 1919, and we fully intend to make it to 2119. Proving our resilience in a pandemic is a good sign that if our franchisees and leadership continue working together as a team, we can someday celebrate our 200th anniversary.

A&W is an iconic brand not just because we’ve been around for over 100 years, but because we’ve figured out that fine balance between staying true to the things our loyal guests love and innovating in new ways to attract new guests.

Join us: Franchise 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.

Request Franchise Info - Main form (Routing Dropdown)

Fill out this form to receive your free A&W Franchise Information report.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our niche in the restaurant industry

We’re a different kind of better burger franchise. Long before the 21st century burger players, there was A&W.

An orange soft-bound book has an illustration of an A&W Root Beer stand atop the words, “It all started with a tiny roadside stand.”

When A&W opened its first Root Beer stand in 1919, there was no burger industry. No McDonald’s. No Five Guys. Just ice cold, hand-crafted Root Beer. Over the last century we added some craveable treats and sweets and upgraded our business model pretty significantly, with a unique ownership structure that truly puts decision-making into the hands of the franchisee. 

Today, our brand of hip nostalgia is what sets us apart from the typical better burger franchise. We stand on the brand pillar of quality food because that’s not only what the customer wants, it’s what the customer demands. And we know how to execute efficiently, thanks to input from our franchisees.

A new ownership group took command of A&W Restaurants in 2011, and we stabilized the franchise and then re-engaged the franchise community, helping to shape what is A&W Restaurants in 2021: a better burger franchise like no other, a franchise that works in big towns and out-of-the-way communities, a secret-weapon supply chain vendor and a sales record that reflects our hard work and shared values.

Here’s our why

A&W veterans will tell you: You can’t go anywhere in a shirt with our logo on it without people sharing their A&W stories.

“A&W is a good choice for investors because everybody knows the brand,” says President & COO Paul Martino. “You can’t walk into an airport without people telling you a story about the brand. ‘My grandmother brought me to A&W when I was young;’ ‘I loved that frosted mug of Root Beer.’ Everybody has a connection. It’s a brand everybody knows and everybody has a story about.”

When a group of franchisees purchased the brand back from YUM! brands in 2011, there were decisions to be made: Would we be more like McDonald’s or Five Guys? Did we want to be fast food or casual dining? Ultimately, we decided on somewhere in the middle.

That meant quality food. We already had the best Root Beer in the world. How could we raise the level of all our other food? How could we have the best burger on the market? We have strategic partnerships with some of the best in the business, like our supply chain vendor, Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions. RSCS services the largest restaurant company in the world, supplying Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. It’s a huge advantage that gives the A&W franchise a much more extensive reach and helps us keep purchasing costs in check — and offer a very competitive price point to our guests.

Our commitment to quality and our ability to maintain control over pricing and distribution allow us to compete in ways that the other guys can’t. As a better burger concept with a drive-thru, in many of our locations, we not only survived the pandemic that gutted many in the restaurant industry — we thrived. Back-to-back months of double-digit sales growth last summer extended all the way through the final months of the year.

“We experienced one of the best same-store sales increases in the brand’s history,” says Dave Crowley, Director of Franchise Recruitment. “That drive-thru capability is one of the reasons why sales did what they did in 2020.”

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 research pages to learn more about A&W franchise, America’s first and oldest restaurant chain.

Request Franchise Info - Main form (Routing Dropdown)

Fill out this form to receive your free A&W Franchise Information report.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.