A&W Restaurants

Not to be confused with A&W Root Beer.
See also: A&W (Canada)
A&W Restaurants, Inc.
Industry Fast food
Founded 1919 (1919)
Sacramento, California, United States
Founder Roy W. Allen
Frank Wright
Headquarters Lexington, Kentucky, United States[1]
Number of locations
about 1,200
Area served
16 countries and territories
Key people
Kevin Bazner (CEO)[2]
Products Hot dogs, root beer, cheese curds, hamburgers, chicken
Parent A Great American Brand, LLC
Website awrestaurants.com
An American A&W restaurant in Page, Arizona

A&W Restaurants, Inc., is a chain of fast-food restaurants distinguished by its draft root beer and root beer floats. A&W opened a drive-in restaurant in Sacramento, California, in 1923. The company name was taken from the surname initials of partners Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright. The company became famous in the United States for its "frosty mugs", where the mug would be kept in the freezer prior to being filled with root beer and served to the customer.

Beginning to franchise in 1925, today it has franchise locations throughout much of the world, serving a typical fast-food menu of hamburgers and French fries, as well as hot dogs. A number of its outlets are drive-in restaurants with carhops. Previously owned by Yum! Brands, the chain was sold to a consortium of A&W franchisees, through A Great American Brand, LLC, in December 2011.[3]

A&W restaurants in Canada have been part of a separate and unaffiliated chain since 1972.


In June 1919, Lodi, California, Roy W. Allen opened his first root beer stand. In 1923 A&W began when Alan and Frank Wright opened an A&W drive-in restaurant in Sacramento, California, combining both of their initials for the name, and selling the root beer from Allen's stand. Curbside service was provided by tray boys and tray girls. In 1924, Allen purchased Frank Wright's stake in the business. In 1925, Allen began franchising the root beer, while the franchisee added the other menu items and operated at their discretion. This may have arguably been the first successful food-franchising operation. Allen sold the company in 1950 and retired.[4]

In the expansion years of the 1950s and 1960s, franchisees were signing 20 or 25 year contracts under the older model.[4] The chain went international in 1956, when A&W opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Montreal, Quebec, Canada. By 1960, A&W had 2,000 retail stores. In 1963, the chain opened its first store on Okinawa.[5] In the following years, the chain branched into other foreign markets, including the Philippines and Malaysia.

Dale Mulder opened up a Lansing, Michigan, A&W franchise in 1961.[4] Mulder added to his menu in 1963 the bacon cheeseburger after a customer made repeated orders for bacon to be added to his cheeseburger. Thus A&W is credited with inventing the bacon cheeseburger.[6]

In 1963, the company was sold again followed by another sale in 1967 to United Fruit Co. conglomerate. AMK Corporation purchased United Fruit in 1970. Then AMK formed United Brands Company to hold A&W.[4]

In 1971, A&W Beverages Inc.—a beverage subsidiary—began, supplying bottled A&W products to grocery stores. The bottled products rapidly became available nationally.[4]

In the 1970s, A&W had more stores than McDonald's.[7] with a peak in 1974 of 2,400 units.[4] Oshkosh, Wisconsin franchise manager Jim Brajdic said: "Problems back then, including a lawsuit, franchisee discontent and inconsistencies in the operation, caused the chain to flounder and branches to close."[7] A&W moved to a modern style franchise agreement which introduced royalty payments and new standards. Which as their 20 or 25 year original agreement expired, many franchise refused the terms

A&W in the 1980s began offering the Third Pounder to compete with McDonald's Quarter Pounder. The Third beat the Quarter in taste test and was less expensive. All of this was cited in the marketing of the burger. However, customers assumed that the Third Pounder had less meat then the Quarter Pounder, thus refusing to buy it.[8]

In 1982, A. Alfred Taubman purchased A&W[9] and placed under Taubman Investment Co.[4] Taubman only purchased the restaurant company and not A&W Beverages. The chain dropped to less than 500 locations in the mid-1980s. A freeze to issuing franchisees was put in place.[4]

A new format concept, A&W Great Food Restaurants, was developed. 10 corporate owned location were opened to test the concept, which was a sit down upscale, family theme with a large salad bar and homemade ice cream.[4]

In 1986 the company was headquartered in Livonia, Michigan and Mulder became CEO and president. The freeze was lived and a push occurred in 1986 that added 60 franchisee units.[4] In 1989, A&W made an agreement with Minnesota-based Carousel Snack Bars to convert that chain's 200 stores (mostly kiosks in shopping malls) to A&W Hot Dogs & More.[10][11] Some A&W Hot Dogs & More are still operating.[7]

In 1995, Taubman sold A&W to Sidney Feltenstein.[9] A&W merged with Long John Silver's to form Yorkshire Global Restaurants based in Lexington, Kentucky. Yorkshire in 2000 agreed to test multibranded locations with Tricon Global Restaurants. By March 2002, the Yorkshire-Tricon multibranding test consisted of 83 KFC/A&Ws, six KFC/Long John Silver's and three Taco Bell/Long John Silver's and was considered successful by the companies.[12]

In the late 2000s, A&W added franchises with a nostalgic look and modern technology. They have a carhop design with drive-thrus and some have picnic tables.[7]

Yum Brands subsidiary

In March 2002, Tricon Global announced the acquisition of Yorkshire and name change to YUM Brands.[12][13]

A&W opened its first outlet in Bangladesh on 15 December 2010. The food served is 100% halal and is very popular with the local youth population, with root beer being the driving force of the large number of sales. A&W Bangladesh serves an "All you can eat offer" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and "Boishakhi Bonanza" during the Bengali new year.[14]

Most A&W stores that opened in the U.S. in recent years were co-branded with another of Yum!'s chains—Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

A Great American Brand subsidiary

In January 2011, Yum! Brands announced its intention to sell A&W along with Long John Silver's. Citing poor sales for both divisions, Yum! planned to focus on international expansion for its remaining brands, with particular emphasis on growth in China.[15] In September 2011, Yum! announced that it would sell the chain to A Great American Brand, a consortium of various A&W franchisees in the United States and overseas.[13] The sale was finalized on December 19, 2011, under the leadership of returning CEO Kevin M. Bazner.[3]

In October 2013, A&W opened its first new concept restaurant, A&W Burgers Chicken Floats. The new concept focuses on fresh made-to-order food and heavily emphasizes customer service. The menu features burgers made with fresh beef and a choice of toppings, hand-breaded chicken tenders, all beef hot dogs, and several sides.

As of 2013, the chain consisted of more than 1,200 restaurants, 350 of which were international stores in ten countries and territories.


The roadside sign in front of the Middlebury, Vermont location

In 1963, A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger. Each burger had a wrapper featuring a cartoon image of the corresponding character. Many locations featured fiberglass statues of the family in front of their stores.[16] The Papa Burger consisted of two 1/8-pound beef patties, with two slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and A&W's proprietary sauce (similar to Thousand Island dressing), on a sesame seed bun. The Mama Burger was the same, only with a single 1/8-pound patty and a plain bun, while the Teen Burger had a single 1/4-pound patty and included slices of bacon (also served on a sesame seed bun). The Baby Burger was made with one 1/8-pound beef patty, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, served on a plain bun.

Rooty, the Great American Root Bear, originated in Canada in 1974 and first appeared in the United States in 1976. Throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Rooty was the face of A&W, both the bottled drinks and the restaurant chain, on television and print advertising. His presence all but disappeared in the late 1990s, but in 2011, under new ownership, Rooty has come out of retirement. He has since been featured in print ads, on A&W's website, as the voice of their official Twitter account, and in a variety of YouTube and Vine videos. In 2013, Rooty became the first mascot to have an official Linkedin profile, which was quickly shut down as Rooty was not considered "real" by the authorities at Linkedin.

In 1998, the characters from the comic strip "Blondie", including Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead, were licensed for use at A&W franchisees as part of an "All American Food" campaign.[17]

In the 1960s, a character named Chubby Chicken appeared on all Chubby burgers.

New products

In the spring of 2013, A&W introduced its first new product in several years: a six-ounce version of its soft-serve blended dessert treat. Mini Polar Swirls were the first product to be launched on Vine.[18] The following summer, 250 of A&W's restaurants began hand-breading their Chicken Tenders, moving towards higher-quality menu items and expanding their chicken category. In April 2014, the Hand- Breaded Chicken Tender Texas Toast Sandwich was added to the menu as a limited time offering, along with a campaign to create the world's longest branded hashtag.[19] In June 2014, A&W launched two new flavors of its Polar Swirl dessert treat: Sour Patch Kids and Nutter Butter.


See also


  1. Sloan, Scott (9 December 2011). "A&W returning headquarters to Lexington". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  2. A&W Restaurants, Inc. (1 July 2014). "A&W Restaurants Celebrates National Root Beer Float Day On August 6th By... -- LEXINGTON, Ky., July 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --". prnewswire.com.
  3. 1 2 "It's Final! Franchisees Buy Out Franchisor A&W". Blue Maumau. 23 December 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Deck, Cecilia (November 19, 1989). "Fast-food Pioneer A&w Survives To Map Comeback". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  5. "Where the Songs Linger, but the Tune Is Different", by Martain Flacker, New York Times, 20 February 2012
  6. Jason, Jason (June 22, 2015). "14 Things You Didn't Know About A&W Restaurants". Thrillist. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Wallenfang, Maureen (24 September 2008). "A&W chain banks on state for its rebirth". Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent. pp. A–10.
  8. Green, Elizabeth (July 23, 2014). "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  9. 1 2 Burke, Heather (April 18, 2015). "Alfred Taubman, Mall Developer, Ex-Sotheby's Chair, Dies at 91". Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  10. Peter & Annette Knight (2009). "A&W Root Beer - Our History". awrootbeer.com. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  11. George Michel (1991). "A&W prexy sets pace for growth in the '90s - A&W Restaurants". Nation's Restaurant News.
  12. 1 2 "Tricon Global Restaurants announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Long John Silver's and A&W All American Food Restaurants, owned by Yorkshire Global Restaurants" (Press release). Tricon Global Restaurants. Bison.com. March 2002. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  13. 1 2 "Yum Sells 2 Fast-Food Chains". New York Times. 2011-09-22.
  14. "A & W: All American Food". hottdhaka.com. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  15. Patton, Leslie (22 September 2011). "Yum Sells A&W, Long John Silver's Chains to Focus on Expansion in China". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  16. "A&W Burger Family". agilitynut.com. 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  17. 'Blondie,' 'Dagwood' to pitch for A&W, Advertising Age March 4, 1998 http://adage.com/article/news/blondie-dagwood-pitch-a-w/22562/
  18. Corr, Amy (29 April 2013). "A&W Restaurant's Social Media Moves: Locked Out Of LinkedIn, Rebounds With Vine". MediaPost Publications. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  19. Newmann, Andrew Adam (22 April 2014). "With a Mouthful, A&W Hopes to Draw Baby Boomers' Offspring". New York Times.

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