Article delves into why A&W Restaurants are especially compelling in small towns, and the quality and tradition that sets the brand apart.
CEO Kevin Bazner was featured recently in an article in QSR, explaining how A&W Restaurants is surging forward after a year of resetting, continuing along a path of intentional growth that is designed to make sure franchisees reap the benefits. One part of that strategy is celebrating our sweet spot as a small town franchise, a tactic that works because of big-brand advantages like our supply chain vendor, the largest purchasing cooperative in the quick-service restaurant industry, that provides A&W franchisees lower costs and broader reach because it also serves three of the biggest franchise chains in the nation: Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell.
“We can take our time,” Bazner tells QSR. “And frankly we have to. That’s how our system works since every initiative touches a restaurant.”
QSR’s article noted, “Beyond the costs, however, A&W discovered that it simply works better in smaller DMAs. ‘Those are our roots,’ Bazner says. ‘We can get in those locations and do (significant sales),’ he adds. ‘That’s a very nice economic model.’”
A return to our quality roots
QSR noted the positive changes that have taken place since 2011, when a partnership of domestic and international franchisees purchased the brand and hired Bazner as CEO in an effort to return to the practices that turned A&W into the iconic brand beloved by so many for 100 years. Here’s an excerpt from the QSR piece:franchisees purchased the brand and hired Bazner as CEO in an effort to return to the practices that turned A&W into the iconic brand beloved by so many for 100 years. Here’s an excerpt from the QSR piece:
For A&W, it comes down to the cues, and that’s something that was getting blurry before new ownership jumped in. Something as simple as making the root beer in-house. A&W returned the core practice to stores systemwide and is in the process of rolling out a draft arm, “just like it used to be,” Bazner says.
In addition to reigniting past feelings, these changes also project quality, Bazner says. It’s where A&W plays in quick service, since it’s not designed to battle aggressively on price. “That has been our value proposition from day one, and we can’t compete in the dollar menu arena,” Bazner says. “We don’t have the share or voice to drive traffic there. We do that locally, but broadly it’s the quality initiative. We stand on our product.” Returning to the franchisee-focused leadership model, there are restaurants in A&W’s system run by third-generation operators…
“They have pride in being able to present and communicate to their customer they’re making [the root beer] fresh in store,” Bazner says.
The small-town franchise you’ve been looking for
Learn more about owning an A&W franchise. Fill out the form on this page to start a conversation, or explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!
From our customers to franchisees, everyone has their fond memories about our iconic 100-year-old fast food franchise. Here, some of the A&W leadership share their favorites.
A&W is known for being the oldest fast food franchise in the country. From our humble beginnings as a roadside stand in 1919 Lodi, CA, to our resurgence today as a nationwide brand, A&W attracts nostalgic and new customers alike. They come for the creamy Root Beer made fresh in our restaurants and the juicy, 100% U.S. Beef burgers and real Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds. They come for the unique brand of hip nostalgia you can find only at A&W. And everyone, it seems, has a favorite A&W memory.
For our 100th anniversary this year, we talked to some of the executives and members of the National A&W Franchisee Association (NAWFA):
My favorite A&W memories are of going to the A&W Drive-In in San Rafael, CA, where they had carhops, and eating a cheeseburger and fries in the back seat of our family car with my mom, dad and little sister. In the mid-1960s I remember my mom telling us that she was going to get the “Teen Burger” instead of the “Mama Burger” — I guess she was feeling rebellious!
–Pete Knight, Lodi, CA, franchisee
My first A&W memory is of being interviewed by David Zollman and Kevin Bazner in 1985! I have two favorite A&W memories:
1. Becoming a franchisee in 1998
2. Having Sarah Blasi Mueller, our Vice President of Marketing (then Marketing Manager), introduce me as, “My friend, Kevin Klein” at the first convention after A&W was acquired in 2012 when she hardly knew me. It meant a lot! That may sound silly but it’s true. When we say A&W is a family, we mean it, and it shows in how we work together.
–Kevin Klein, Birch Run, MI, NAWFA Chairman
I remember sitting at a counter on a stool that spun around. There were only 4 or 5 stools, and that was the only place to sit inside. I remember a frosty mug filled with orange drink served to me by a man behind the counter wearing a white paper hat…my dad.
My favorite A&W memory was making my very first tip as a carhop. It was a quarter, which was a really good tip back in 1968. I remember thinking “WOW, easy money!”
–Linda Mulder, Grand Ledge, MI, NAWFA Vice Chair
Our first memory: Mike and I were dating, and we went to the A&W here in Reno during Hot August Nights. There were so many old cars with lots of old music, and people were dressed in poodle skirts and pompadours. It was so much fun!
Our best memory: In 2006, Mike and I purchased our first A&W Franchise in Reno, NV, becoming part of the A&W family!
–Mike & Raeleen Baker, Reno, NV, franchisees
My first memory of A&W was when I reached out the driver’s side window from the back seat, squeezing the entire upper half of my 6-year-old body between the door frame and my dad, and then leaning out and grabbing a cold, ice-dripping glass mug filled with A&W Root Beer from the attached tray. It was so heavy! So cold! I’ll never forget the unique smell and taste of that Root Beer.
My favorite memory of A&W is actually a living memory. It started a long time ago and gets refreshed every time I speak with another operator, another FGL, or anyone from the support and leadership team of our brand. It’s the power of relationships that defines us. That’s the strength of A&W.
–Tom Thompson, Dubuque, IA, franchisee
Growing up in Southern California in a large family, any restaurant visit was a big treat. My family of 10 would pile into our station wagon and spend a day at the park, with the big reward being a stop at the local A&W for a frosty mug of Root Beer at the A&W. Being the oldest, I could always opt out of the family time, but that mug of Root Beer made it worth the trip.
–Paul Martino, A&W President & COO
My first A&W memory is when I was a kid I could take my bike to the local A&W in Holland, MI, and lean up against the outdoor counter and order a large Root Beer and a hot dog with mustard and pickle for a total of 20 cents. It was a great treat.
–Dale Mulder, A&W Chairman
My first A&W memories are of walking to our local A&W in Fond du Lac and getting a free Baby Mug for kids under 5. We later purchased that A&W.
One of my favorite memories is putting on the Rooty the Root Beer Bear costume for the first time. I walked out to about two stalls, and a car was backing out and ran over the back of my foot and I couldn’t move.
–Jim Brajdic, Fond Du Lac, WI, NAWFA Treasurer
My first memory: Stopping at an A&W in Lincoln Park, MI, on the way back from my grandparents’ house when I was about 5 years old. We were allowed to get a Root Beer Float if we all behaved ourselves during the drive and the visit. Dad wanted to stop anyway for the Coney Dogs.
My favorite A&W memory is my daughter’s 4th birthday party at the PJ Drive-in in Malaysia shortly after we moved there. The team at A&W Malaysia made it a wonderful event for a young girl who was living in a foreign country with no extended family and who had not yet made any friends. It was likely her first exposure to Rooty the Root Beer Bear. It was the beginning of a special relationship that has lasted a lifetime and continues to this day.
–Kevin Bazner, A&W CEO
Learn more about becoming a part of the A&W franchise family. Fill out the form on this page to start a conversation, or explore our research pages to learn more about the franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!