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.

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