Far-reaching supplier makes small towns more accessible for our burger franchise, allowing franchisees to succeed while reinvesting in their hometowns
In late September 2017 in Bemidji, MN, the town of about 14,500 celebrated the opening of a new A&W restaurant with free Root Beer Floats. A&W was a thriving business in the Minnesota town in the 1950s and 1960s, but had been gone for many years. Its return was welcomed with open arms by local fans.
The Bemidji location is one of 18 new A&W Restaurants opened in 2017, with several more in development. Many of our 625+ U.S. locations are in smaller communities, where franchise buyers can take advantage of lower real estate prices and fewer competing brands.
“Current and new franchisees are expressing their confidence in the A&W brand by signing development agreements, opening restaurants across the country and participating in our system remodeling program,” says Kevin Bazner, President and CEO. “It is gratifying that many of our new restaurants are being opened by current franchise partners.”
A small-town franchise with big-brand resources
Bemidji was a perfect opportunity for a new location, not only because of its history with A&W Restaurants but because the town is situated at the junction of two major highways and a little over an hour away from Grand Rapids, MI. We anticipate our new franchise will not only create loyal brand fans locally, it will also capture outdoorsmen and road-trippers looking for something more comforting than a drive-thru as they pass by on the highway.
A&W is positioned to help franchisees succeed thanks to our vendor relationship with Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions. Because they have existing relationships with Yum! Brands, we can leverage that reach and buying power for A&W locations in even the most out-of-the-way places.
How A&W gives back
Small towns are the type of community where A&W excels. Jim Brajdic owns units in several small towns in the Fox Valley area near Appleton, WI, and one reason his restaurants thrive is because they all give back to their communities.
“There are a lot of people who come into our restaurants because of what we do and what we represent,” says Brajdic, who is also a member of the National A&W Franchisee Association board, which co-owns the A&W brand and collaborates on all decisions. “We get involved with the Cancer Society Walk, the Salvation Army. We donate grocery bags full of food to be delivered to the needy in our community.”
When schools or non-profit organizations are seeking help with fundraisers, they often turn to Brajdic, whose restaurants might, for example, donate sales from Root Beer Floats. A small-town franchise is more likely to plug into the interconnectedness of a tight-knit community. “We won an award from United Way for Small Business of the Year,” Brajdic noted.
In a recent interview with Franchise Times magazine, which describes A&W as “the Norman Rockwell of American QSR,” Bazner noted the advantages of lower real estate costs and said A&W’s “sweet spot” is communities with populations between 5,000 and 25,000 that are located near major highways.
“This allows us to capitalize on major traffic patterns, but doesn’t marry us to being downtown,” Bazner told the magazine.
He also pointed out the labor pool is easier to access in small communities, and it’s easier to make connections with community partnerships, local media and civic organizations.
If you’d like to discover more about why A&W is such a great franchise for small towns, please explore our research pages. To start a conversation, just fill out the short, no-obligation form on this page and someone from our Franchise Development team will be in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!