A&W ranked among best franchises for women

Based on surveys, female franchisees feel satisfied with A&W’s leadership, performance and business lifestyle

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.

Our brand of hip nostalgia and All-American food serves up the comfort food our guests crave.

A&W Restaurants was included in Franchise Business Review’s recent ranking of The Top 50 Franchises for Women, which was compiled based on surveys of nearly 8,500 female franchisees from 289 leading brands. Those with the highest satisfaction scores were included in the ranking.

Those who participated in the survey answered 33 questions about leadership, training, core values and other topics pertaining to their franchisor, including business lifestyle and overall enjoyment. 

Franchise Business Review writes, “Over the last decade, women have been flocking to franchising. Today, 29% of all franchises are solely woman-owned, and 32% of franchises opened in the last 24 months are led by women. While the pandemic may have temporarily slowed the rate of business start-ups, the outlook for women in franchising remains optimistic. In fact, our research on the top franchises for women shows that 88% of women say they enjoy operating their business and 75% would recommend their franchise to others.”

No ordinary franchise

A&W stands out as a franchise in many ways, but one of the most extraordinary is the way our ownership is structured. A&W is one of the best franchises for women — and men as well — because we understand exactly what franchise owners want. We should; we’re owned by franchisees.

Franchisees are key to decision-making. A&W owners determine every decision that affects the franchise through the National A&W Franchisees Association (NAWFA) Board, which approves all decisions with our Executive Team. Many franchisors promise a seat at the table, but A&W really delivers.

No one understands better than the franchise owners the impact decisions have at the restaurant level.

We also offer the advantage of a world-class supply vendor. A&W has a long-term relationship with Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions (RSCS). RSCS offers us lower prices and greater reach thanks to its size; it provides services to three of the biggest franchises in the U.S.: Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. Franchise owners enjoy greater discounts on food, paper and restaurant supplies thanks to RSCS.

Best of all, A&W is a century-old legacy brand that’s stronger than ever in 2021, with an AUV of over $1 million, up 40% on average in our base-brand model.

Strong financial performance, stability and an equal voice at the table are all a part of the formula that make A&W one of the best franchises for women, in any category.

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 the A&W franchise brand.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Now Open: New Units Help Drive Double-Digit Sales Growth

Photo of A&W Restaurant exterior in Mountain Lake, Minnesota.

Getting a new restaurant built and opened is tough enough in regular times, let alone during a pandemic. But COVID-19 did not stop Betty Adrian and Mike Adrian from finishing a stunning new A&W this month in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Welcome to the family!

Outstanding franchise partners like Betty and Mike are the reason A&W just announced its fifth month of double-digit comp-sales for this year. Thank you all for your perseverance and dedication. Click here to read more.

A&W Restaurants’ CEO Discusses COVID-19 Success on CNBC

Photo of A&W Restaurants CEO Kevin Bazner

A&W CEO Kevin Bazner explained to viewers of CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange how America’s first franchised chain restaurant has outperformed other quick-service brands after a “scary” March and April. According to Bazner, A&W Restaurants’ year-to-date sales growth is the highest since 2011, when franchisees purchased the brand. Comp sales were up by double-digits in May, June, and July.

Click here to watch the interview.