A&W Franchise Review: Anthony Walker of Baldwin, Wisconsin

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.

Learn more

Start your own family legacy by joining A&W franchises. 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!

A&W Franchise Review: Phil Welch of Franksville, WI

After three generations of family ownership, Welch has A&W Root Beer running through his veins.

A vintage black-and-white photo shows a car hop taking a man’s order at an A&W drive-in.

There’s a saying among some of the long-time franchisees of A&W: They’ve got A&W Root Beer running through their veins. That’s certainly the case for Phil Welch of Franksville,WI, a third-generation franchise owner. But it wasn’t always the case. He had no intention of going into the family business until A&W was purchased by a partnership of franchisees. Welch shares his history with our 100-year-old brand in this A&W franchise review.

How do you feel about the direction of the brand?
The new ownership of the brand is made up of a partnership of franchisees; that helped give us the confidence to stay with A&W. We knew this group really got what it’s like to own an A&W restaurant, because they were all franchisees themselves. It was important for me to know that new leadership had decades of experience with A&W and truly understood the brand’s heart and soul. Now that we are an independent brand again we know our future is bright.

What makes A&W a good investment? Why A&W as opposed to another QSR brand?
I’ll be honest: If my parents were franchisees of Burger King or Wendy’s, I wouldn’t have been interested in taking over. I’ve had a passion for this brand my whole life. I love the quality of the Root Beer, chicken and burgers. Other brands don’t have the soul of A&W.

How does HQ help you? What are some of the most valuable things they do to support you?
We don’t need a whole lot, but when we do need something, we get it right away. Whatever it is. Our FGL picks up the phone right away and helps us. The team has empathy towards us and is very helpful. We are people first and feel the same from the corporate team. We have the same heart, same core beliefs and attitude.

What draws customers to A&W?
Quality food, great service and cleanliness. We have timers to check tables and bathrooms every 30 minutes. We smile when our guests come in. The presentation of our food is great, and if something doesn’t look right we have our crew throw it away and start over. We don’t serve the food and say, “We’ll do better next time.” We do not sacrifice the guest experience for food cost. We take food safety very seriously and received 100 on our last food safety audit visit.

Are you able to meet your business goals, or are you on your way to meeting your goals, by owning A&W?
We are protecting our family’s future, not looking to build and then sell off. Maybe our kids will take over. Maybe my brother’s kids will. Either way, when you own your own place you know you have equity in something.

How long have you been a franchisee?
My grandparents built their first A&W franchise in 1954 as a seasonal restaurant. Our restaurant has moved twice since then but we’ve remained under consistent family ownership.

What were you doing before becoming an A&W franchisee?
I was an electronics technician in the Navy from 1994 to 2000, and I became a software engineer after leaving the Navy.

How did you end up going into the family business?
We had a unique situation where the Wisconsin Department of Transportation took eminent domain of our restaurant due to a highway project. My parents were ready to retire, and I felt this was a good business opportunity to rebuild the A&W on the other side of the road. Right about this time a group of franchisees bought the A&W Restaurants franchise brand, and this gave me the confidence to leave my job and build a new A&W.

What’s the most satisfying thing about being an A&W franchise owner?
The most satisfying part of owning an A&W is helping young people develop a good work ethic and other good habits, like showing up on time. Some of these kids don’t even know how to hold a mop, but they are willing to learn. My wife and I are both driven and try to lead by example. We encourage them. We know you can’t help everyone, but we help plant a seed. If a team member needs an hour of extra coaching, we give it to them. You can’t put a dollar value on that.

What kind of experience do you need to be successful with A&W? What kind of person will succeed here?
My experience in the Navy helped immensely, giving me good experience in structure and chain of command.
A photo of a Bacon Cheeseburger against a red table background.

What’s your favorite menu item?
Root Beer and an Original Bacon Cheeseburger. I’m a traditionalist and literally drink Root Beer every day.

Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out today, would you still become a A&W franchisee?
Yes, for the same reasons. We believe in the leadership of the brand, the franchisee-owned structure, the product, the brand’s history and its bright future.

Learn more

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!