He drank Root Beer from his baby bottle, and it still runs through his veins today. Third-generation owner shares his story in this A&W Franchise Review.
Anthony Walker is yet another A&W franchisee who has Root Beer running through his veins. It’s no wonder, since his father put Root Beer in his baby bottle! As a third-generation owner of the A&W franchise in Baldwin, Wisconsin, which his grandparents opened in 1977, Anthony grew up in the business. Like so many multi-generational owners, he tried life away from A&W — but he just couldn’t stay away from the family business. He shares his story in this A&W franchise review.
What’s the most satisfying thing about being an A&W franchise owner?
The most satisfying part of being an owner is being part of an iconic American brand. Our brand has been around for 100 years, and everyone has a story. It’s an incredible connection to share with our guests. I take pride in the fact that we are the best in our segment — we own Root Beer and everyone knows it. No one else does Root Beer better than us. No other chain “owns” their category like A&W.
What were you doing before becoming an A&W franchisee?
My grandparents opened the franchise in 1977, so I grew up in the business — my dad put Root Beer in my baby bottle as a kid. I always thought I would come back to the A&W business. My parents forced me to go to college, and I went to school for marketing and small business management. After college I had a small stint at a car dealership – I sold two cars. But I wanted to be my own boss, so I made the decision to come back into the business. I was added to the franchise contract at age 23, and I felt like I truly had an investment at that point.
How do you feel about the direction of the brand?
For the years I’ve been a part of the brand, I feel the direction has never been better. Our Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders and new burger procedures have upped our quality, which differentiates us from other chains.
The culture of A&W and the leadership is fantastic. How many brands do you know where the CEO knows your name and walks up to give you a hug? A&W has a unique family atmosphere, and everyone has Root Beer in their veins.
What makes A&W a good investment? Why A&W as opposed to another QSR brand?
We are a special-occasion brand. Consumers really don’t mind treating themselves to A&W because it is seen as a reward. We aren’t stuck in a price value proposition like other brands. We stand for quality value. Our focus on selling Root Beer and treats helps us be more profitable than other brands because these are higher-margin items.
What draws customers to A&W?
A frosted glass mug of Root Beer (which, again, we do better than everyone else). The nostalgia associated with that mug is stronger than we get credit for. Our consistency is key as well; guests know what they’re getting.
How does HQ help you? What are some of the most valuable things they do to support you?
We get solid coaching from our Franchise Growth Leader (FGL) on the field. When they visit they always ask us what we need from them. They don’t yell at us for what we may be doing wrong. If we need help, they get it done. The whole RSC team is very helpful and are always trying to figure out what is the best for our restaurant.
What kind of experience do you need to be successful with A&W? What kind of person will succeed here?
You need to be a good communicator to build a successful team. You need good management skills because this business is about managing people. You need to be transparent and fair. You can’t be afraid to be an operator and get your hands dirty.
Have you adopted the new store design or do you have plans to do so in the near future? What do you hope that will accomplish?
We did an exterior remodel four years ago, and sales are up approximately 30% since then. We are looking forward to remodeling our interior with the new Gen 19 asset design later this year and into early 2020. We’ve found that our remodels in the past have more than paid for themselves.
What’s your favorite menu item?
My favorite products are Root Beer Floats and Cheese Curds.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out today, would you still become a A&W franchisee? Why or why not?
Yes! The brand is doing well. Our menu mix is solid, our costs are low, and we are much more profitable than people might assume.
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