Franchisee uses digital marketing to showcase our nostalgic appeal

Forward-thinking, community-focused marketing has helped one franchisee build a thriving business in the birthplace of A&W Root Beer

Franchisee Pete Knight has a lot of history with A&W, having been a franchisee for more than 20 years and a member of the A&W family for more than 40. Not only that, but one of his two restaurants is in Lodi, CA, where A&W got its start. And Knight is the perfect embodiment of why we’ve remained one of the best restaurant franchises for nearly 100 years, because he grows his business with a savvy combination of nostalgic appeal and forward-thinking digital marketing. Here’s what he has to say about the A&W franchise opportunity:

How long have you been a franchisee?

I’ve been a franchisee since 1995, and we have two locations in wine country: in Lodi, CA, and St. Helena, CA. I go way back, though; A&W was my first job. I started as a cook in 1973 when I was 16, and I became the manager when I was 19, and I was manager from ’76 to ’95.

I always had an owner’s mentality even as a manager. I always treated the store as if it was my own, with that sense of urgency and a sense of wanting to do a good job taking care of our guests, making sure everything was maintained properly and training the employees.

What would you say is the most satisfying thing about being a franchise owner?

The most satisfying thing is the sense of being in control of your own destiny, even though it’s a lot of work and it’s demanding. It is satisfying knowing that you’re building something successful. And I like the idea that I’m working with and providing jobs to young people. I have over 40 employees in the two restaurants combined, so it’s satisfying knowing that I’ve got 40 people that have a job because of me.

What are some marketing initiatives that you do for your stores?

I took marketing classes in college, and I’ve always been kind of a marketing guy. We do a lot of guerrilla marketing in the neighborhoods, taking our mascot, Rooty the Great Root Bear, out for events. We sponsor a lot of Little League teams, soccer, baseball, softball, football, and that gets the A&W name out in the community relatively inexpensively.

We give away a lot of root beer to charities that want to make money. We help them out with making floats or something for an event and they sell the product and make money. That gives us better visibility in the community, and we gain goodwill; the big fast food franchises just don’t get the goodwill like A&W can in the community.

In Lodi we do a weekly car show. That keeps us top of mind. People are talking about us. “Did you see the old cars?” And it’s one of our busier nights of the week.

And Lodi is the birthplace of A&W, so one big event that we did back in 1999 for our 80th anniversary, we built the world record root beer float in downtown Lodi at the original location. We got the whole community involved and raised a lot of money for local churches, schools and youth groups. We had a big car show, and then we built the world record root beer float, and then gave it away. We raised about $10,000 for local charities. People here still talk about that.

We do a lot online, too. I was the first A&W to have a website back in the ’90s. I was the first A&W to do Twitter. We have a Facebook page and Instagram, and we do a lot of digital marketing now. Our vendors and corporate team are very knowledgeable, and they help us a lot in keeping up with all the digital marketing you can do now.

Communities change. There’s a lot of influx and out-flux of customers, so you always have to stay in people’s minds. You can’t just sit on your laurels and say, “Hey, everybody knows we’re here,” you know? You have to get the word out constantly.

Cutline: Franchisee Pete Knight keeps his stores active on social media, drawing in guests by letting them know about upcoming events and posting mouth-watering food pictures.

Alt Text: Three hand-breaded chicken tenders sit in a paper basket on a table. An out-of-focus ketchup packet can be seen in the background.

What makes A&W a strong investment?

Especially for a young, hard-working person, it’s an affordable restaurant franchise to get involved in compared to one of the bigger franchises, and there’s a lot of value in an A&W franchise. You read all the time about other franchises coming and going, but A&W is still here after almost 100 years. That says something about the longevity, you know? I think the stability of owning an A&W franchise is important. It’s not just a flash in the pan like some of these other fast food franchises.

A&W is kind of a complete package. It’s more like family than it is this corporate thing. And then if you want to buy five or 10 franchises, the support’s there to do that, too.

What brings guests into A&W?

A&W has been around a long time, so we have a strong customer base, and they’ve got great memories of A&W. And now they’re bringing their kids in, or they’re bringing their grandchildren in, because they want them to experience the memory. And it lives up to the memory of their youth too, because the food’s as good as the Root Beer. We draw people from all over the community because the food’s good and we’re priced right.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about the franchise opportunity with A&W Restaurants, please continue exploring our website. To start a conversation with one of our franchise development representatives, simply fill out the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!