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.

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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.

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Fill out this form to receive your free A&W Franchise Information report.
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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.

A&W Franchise Review: Jason Kupfner, Director of Operations for Par Mar Oil

Following the success of their first A&W C-store in Ohio, Par Mar Oil just opened a second location — and more may be in the works

An A&W sign adorns the orange top of an exterior of a restaurant against a blue sky. Beneath the A&W sign is a smaller sign that reads, “All American Food.”

Jason Kupfner, Director of Retail Operations for Par Mar Oil, didn’t have any questions about what restaurant to pair with Par Mar’s convenience store operation in West Virginia. After their success with the A&W franchise in one of their Zanesville, Ohio, convenience stores, they were eager to try again. They just opened an A&W store in Pleasant Valley, West Virginia, in August. In this A&W franchise review, Kupfner talks about why the 113-store convenience and gas company likes partnering with A&W.

What made you decide to open an A&W next to or in your convenience store?
We had acquired an A&W C-store in Zanesville, Ohio, back in 2013, and it’s been very successful store for us. A&W was at the top of our list when we started looking in 2016 to add a restaurant to our Pleasant Valley, West Virginia, store. It’s taken us a while to get it up and running, but we’re excited to see how our new restaurant performs.

What appealed to you most about the A&W brand vs. another brand?
It’s a brand that’s been around for 100 years – you can’t do any better than that. It’s a brand that people recognize. Growing up, I remember going to A&W, and my mom even kept a baby mug in the kitchen that she’d gotten as a kid.

How did A&W’s corporate team guide you through the opening process?
The opening process was very structured. The weekly calls were very helpful. We had a plan, and the A&W team kept us on task. Your team had confidence in us and we made a good team together. The training staff that came to our restaurant were awesome, and they stayed with us for two weeks.

How much contact have you had with the corporate office since opening? Can you describe the ongoing support they’ve provided?
Our Franchise Growth Leader, Randy, has been our boots on the ground and he’s been very helpful. We’ve been in touch with people at the office. We feel very supported by the team.

How does A&W help with your C-store profitability?
We spent just under $300,000 for the restaurant conversion in Pleasant Valley; we did the build-out in a former Fazoli’s. A&W brings additional foot traffic into our stores. We estimate it will add significant revenue to our existing operation.

Are you planning to add more A&W franchises?
We are looking at another couple of sites. We are growing rapidly, and we will continue to consider A&W as we expand.

Would you recommend A&W to another C-store operator, and if so, why?
Yes, because working with A&W is not like working with any other QSR chains. Other brands have no flexibility. We like working with the A&W brand because they understand our partnership is give and take, they don’t just say “no.” They’re open-minded, and the team is always willing to share best practices.

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 website to read more A&W franchise reviews and learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity for your C&G operations. We look forward to hearing from you!

4 core strengths as a business opportunity

For more than 100 years, A&W Restaurants have been getting the job done. Here are 4 reasons behind our staying power.

A hand holds a Root Beer Float in an A&W-branded mug in the foreground while an out-of-focus bacon cheeseburger, fries and strawberry shake are seen in the background.

Every business has its brand pillars. For A&W Restaurants, three of our biggest strengths as a business opportunity are our near-universal brand recognition, our menu and our supply chain. Our franchisee ownership structure is the cherry on top.

Here’s a look at four of the pillars of our brand and how they benefit franchisees.

Supply chain advantage

One of the biggest advantages we have in 2019 is our supply chain vendor Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions (RSCS).

RSCS is a major buying co-op that handles supply and distribution for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, three of the largest franchises in the U.S. That means great prices on food, paper and restaurant equipment for our franchisees. The fact that RSCS is already servicing tens of thousands of restaurants means there’s nowhere in the country they can’t go. That gives our owner-operators the kind of buying power and reach usually afforded only to much larger franchise systems. That’s a boon for our small-town franchise owners as well as multi-unit developers who want to delve into new territories.

“The relationship we have with RSCS is probably one of the more unique things that we have going for us,” says franchisee Tom Thompson of Dubuque, Iowa. “I don’t know how many other smaller brands can say that they’re associated with a food-purchasing co-op with equipment-purchasing benefits as well. That’s a tremendous advantage for A&W.”

Our menu advantage

Hot-off-the-grill burgers. Hand-breaded chicken tenders. Root Beer floats. What’s not to love? A&W’s menu has broad appeal. Is it trendy? No. But the burger category continues to rule, comprising 44%, or over $90 billion, of sandwich sales in 2016, according to research firm Technomic. And our unique brand of hip nostalgia has been great at attracting customers since 1919.

Back in those days, we served up our fresh-made Root Beer in cold, frosty glass mugs. In 2019, we still do. People are nostalgic for those kinds of small pleasures, and it makes a difference in customer engagement.

Our brand recognition

Who hasn’t heard of A&W? We’ve been serving customers nationwide for the last century, and we have generations of brand recognition. Just about everyone has a fond memory of heading out with a date or with their family, enjoying a creamy, delicious ice-cold Root Beer Float and some Papa Burgers and Cheese Curds. Customers not only know A&W — franchisees typically hear a lot of excitement when they announce that they’re bringing an A&W Restaurant to town.

Our ownership structure

Perhaps A&W Restaurants’ most remarkable distinction is the way the brand’s ownership is structured. We are franchisee-owned. Our stakeholders are our franchisees, and every decision is collaborative. This business isn’t run by some ivory-tower MBA who has never seen the inside of a kitchen and doesn’t even eat the food here. We live it, and breathe it. Everyone in our corporate office works inside a restaurant at least once a quarter so we can experience the brand ourselves — and see first-hand how brand decisions play out for local restaurants.

Franchise owners play a key role in every decision through the National A&W Franchisees Association (NAWFA) Board, which approves all decisions in concert with our Executive Team. There is true representation here, and that’s not always the case with franchises.

Learn more

Learn more about becoming a part of the A&W franchise family. Fill out the form on this page to start a conversation, or explore our website to learn more about the franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!

Why A&W is a great brand for your convenience store or gas station

Convenience and gas station owners looking to pair with fast food franchises benefit from increased value, more foot traffic and additional revenue stream with A&W.

Pictured are a bacon cheeseburger with onion, lettuce and tomato; a pile of fries; and a Root Beer float in an A&W-branded mug. If you’re looking for a name-brand fast food franchise to partner with your convenience store and gas station locations, A&W Restaurants may be the right fit. We’ve got 100 years of experience, strong year-over-year sales and the brand recognition to help increase your foot traffic. A&W is known for our emphasis on great food and a family-friendly experience. We offer several advantages to C-store operators:

  • A menu with broad appeal
  • Floor plan flexibility that can allow C-store owners to fit our brand within property they already own
  • A strong supply chain that reaches all corners of the country
  • A company that is franchisee-owned with franchisee representation, meaning you have a say in the overall business strategy.

How A&W can help you amp up your business

Profit generators are a must for anyone in the gas business. By partnering with A&W, you can put a freestanding restaurant on your property in as little as 2,000 square feet.

A&W already partners with experienced brands like Casey’s and TravelCenters of America, and we are eager to welcome more C-stores and travel centers to help expand our reach as we help pump up your existing business.

Fast food franchises like A&W serve as a magnet for additional traffic to your site and allow you to capture more of your customers’ spending — at margins significantly better than fuel sales. Investing in A&W franchises provide you with another high-volume sales opportunity.

“We have a lot of signage for A&W in our C-store. We are working on a daily special plan and we’re in the process of getting register receipt coupons which will cross promote with our grocery. “Spend $25 get a free float, spend $75 get a free ‘something’,” says Brandon Brown, who owns a C-store with an A&W franchise, along with a grocery store and Subway franchise. “The Local Store Marketing support was one of the reasons we picked A&W. The marketing materials are very professional.”

A&W wins, too: Your convenience stores and gas stations allow us to expand our growth in a thoughtful way with companies whose values are similar to our own. We currently have 92 C&G locations, and we will increase those numbers in 2019.

Why you’ll love our fast food franchise

The A&W brand is owned by its franchisees, including the National A&W Franchisees Association (NAWFA). In fact, every employee at the A&W Restaurant Support Center works a shift in one of our restaurants at least once every quarter. There’s no better way to see how our processes are impacting the bottom line.

“It is refreshing that the team genuinely cares about your business and the team travels the road together with you,” says Brown. “There is no big ‘corporate’ mentality. A&W cares less about lining their pockets than your own success, and they know the business success is a two-way street. If we’re making money, they make money.”

NAWFA is comprised of owners who have spent years on the front lines of their own A&W franchises. They helped us successfully restructure the business model in 2011, and we have experienced an average sales increases of almost 33% since then.

We are there to support all our owner/operators, but it’s still your business. A&W provides you with our time-tested systems and the benefits of our supply chain, and we’re there anytime you need us. Our commitment to you is that we are dedicated to creating long-term recurring cash flow and potential multi-generational wealth for our franchisees.

Because we’re owned by our franchisees, there is no exit strategy — just long-term, sustainable growth plans.

Our number one goal is to help our operators grow profitable same-store sales, delivering value to our guests without sacrificing profitability.

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