A&W named among FBR’s Top 25 food franchises

Franchise Business Review’s independent survey shows why A&W Restaurants might be one of the best fast food franchises to own

A&W was named a Top 25 franchise by Franchise Business Review (FBR) in its 2019 report on the Top Food and Beverage Franchises.

Coming on the heels of our 100th anniversary, A&W is not only the oldest restaurant franchise in the country, we may also be one of the best. We are especially proud to be included in the FBR ranking, since these awards are based on feedback from an independent survey that gauges franchisee satisfaction.

FBR, a market research company, provides the only ranking of franchises based solely on actual franchisee satisfaction and performance. For the 2019 ranking of the list of top food and beverage franchises, FBR analyzed 18 months’ worth of data from over 4,200 franchise owners in the food sector regarding their overall satisfaction with their brands and their likelihood to recommend them to others.

“One of our biggest competitive advantages is the way our ownership is structured,” says A&W CEO Kevin Bazner. “Our shareholders are our franchise partners. It’s a long-term view of the business. There’s no exit strategy, and our franchisees have a true say in all our business decisions.”

A&W’s franchisees were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems including training and support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, and financial opportunity.

Michelle Rowan, president of FBR, talks about the awards selection process in the video below:

““The food franchise sector is historically one of the toughest, but delivers a tremendous return on investment for many,” said Eric Stites, CEO of Franchise Business Review. “The key is to choose the right brand. The food and beverage brands on this year’s list are performing well in many areas that are critical to their franchisees’ success. 85% of food and beverage franchisees we surveyed said they enjoy operating their business and 79% said they would do it all over again if given the opportunity, which are strong indicators of business owner satisfaction.”

Some of the highlights from A&W owner surveys included top marks for:

  • Respect
  • Enjoying the organization
  • Honesty & integrity
  • Trust
  • Enjoying the business

In addition, we were 20% higher on FBR’s benchmark as it relates to “involving franchisees.”

Learn more about A&W franchise opportunities

A&W fast food franchises are a perfect investment opportunity for all kinds of entrepreneurs, from those who want to improve their hometowns to those who want to buy several locations and scale quickly. We have 600+ franchises locations nationwide and are continuing to grow strategically. Please explore our research pages and request our free Franchise Information Report to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!

How our brand of hip nostalgia brings in customers

Yes, it’s the food and the atmosphere. But A&W’s hip nostalgia is scientifically proven to make people feel better.

As we’re celebrating our 100th anniversary this year, our particular brand of hip nostalgia is standing out more than ever. A&W Restaurants have been around since the summer of 1919 when we opened our first Root Beer stand in Lodi, CA, and our customers have been making fond memories ever since. The fact that we’ve been around so long is part of the reason our customers keep coming back, and bringing new generations with them.

We’re still a thoroughly modern fast food franchise, with sophisticated business systems that rely on the latest technology. Our ownership structure has guided us through a brand resurgence. Franchisees brought out the brand in 2011. Since then, A&W Restaurants have enjoyed a nearly 33% increase in average same-store sales.

Why nostalgia is driving guest traffic

Pete Knight owns A&W franchises in St. Helena and Lodi, CA, where it all began. His relationship with the brand goes back a lot further than 1995, when he opened his first A&W Restaurant. “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,” says Knight, who went to work as a cook for A&W when he was a teenager in the 1970s.

Knight worked his way up through management and eventually became a franchisee. He loves the value A&W still places on nostalgia. “We serve our root beer in frosty glass mugs like Roy Allen did in 1919,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle recently. “He was very passionate about it, and we still are.”

He’s not the only fan of nostalgia, as it turns out. Studies show nostalgia gives people better self-esteem and boosts optimism. It also makes people feel happier, more socially connected and even gives life more meaning, according to Psychology Today.

Great food and happy memories are a powerful combination — especially when combined with near-universal brand recognition.

Learn more about the franchise opportunity

A&W fast food franchises are a perfect investment opportunity for all kinds of entrepreneurs, from those who want to improve their hometowns to those who want to buy several locations and scale quickly. We have 600+ franchises locations nationwide and are continuing to grow strategically. Please explore our research pages and request our free Franchise Information Report to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!

Bring back the ampersand

A&W launches campaign to bring the ampersand back to the alphabet — & here’s why that makes us one of the best restaurant franchises to own

When we launched our “Bring Back the Ampersand” campaign in late January, we knew we’d see some momentum. Halfway through the PR campaign to reintroduce the ampersand to the alphabet — with an official petition for Merriam-Webster and a plea to other ampersanded brands to join our cause — we seem to have made quite an impression.

Overall impressions, in fact, come in at millions. Between our YouTube video, our website, our social media sites, our Change.org petition and hundreds of thousands of emails, people everywhere are jumping on our ampersand bandwagon. Brands like H&R Block have chimed in. The press has picked it up, with stories in AdWeek and Food & Wine.

More than POS banners & a Facebook page

Not only is Bring Back the Ampersand a fun campaign, it simultaneously demonstrates both our lighthearted company culture and the serious expertise of our marketing and digital teams. And — or should we say & — yes, that’s the reason this makes us one of the best restaurant franchises to invest in. When we need reach, we know how to get it.

That’s good news for franchisees, who can count on skilled support from our marketing and digital gurus to help promote their restaurants in their communities more effectively and ultimately improve the bottom line.

In the foreground, a man holds a mug with a root beer float. The usual A&W logo on the mug is missing the ampersand symbol. In the out-of-focu background, you can see a milkshake in a branded mug, a burger and fries and a woman in an orange shirt reaching for some fries.

A limited edition mug was intentionally missing the ampersand in our brand name, and a giveaway to spot the omission helped engage customers in a fun way.

Why the &?

First of all, if you haven’t already done so, please visit www.ampersandcampaign.com, sign the petition and share with your friends on social media using the hashtag #BringBackThe&. Secondly, here are a few things you should know about the once-and-possibly-future 27th letter of the alphabet:

  • The ampersand symbol dates back to 45 AD
  • Johannes Gutenberg included it on his first printing press in 1440
  • The word “ampersand” stems from the phrase “and per se and,” which once came after the letter Z in reciting the alphabet

We’re not taking ourselves too seriously with this campaign. However, it did seem like a timely and fun way to bring people together, just like we’ve been doing for 100 years.

Clearly, A&W is a franchise that understands how to have fun. We take our business seriously, but we got into this because we love it. Our brand is owned by our franchisees, and since they took it over in 2011, our sales have increased almost 33% on average. We’re looking for serious investors to come and have fun with us while helping to grow a stable, thriving brand.

Learn more

You can discover more about our franchise opportunity by filling out the form on this page. You can also explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W brand. We look forward to hearing from you!

A&W Restaurants lowers franchise royalties for new operators

New financial incentive kicks off our Second Century Growth Initiative

A black and white photo above a color photo showing A&W Restaurant from many decades ago and an A&W Restaurant today.

As we approach our 100th anniversary in business as America’s first restaurant chain, we’re launching a new franchise growth program with reduced franchise royalties to entice more entrepreneurs to join our growing franchise system. The Second Century Growth Initiative reduces royalties for new U.S. franchise partners. An incentive program for current operators will be introduced in February at A&W’s National Convention.

Since 2011, A&W has been owned by its franchisees. Our popular quick-service chain is known for freshly made A&W Root Beer, 100% U.S. beef burgers and other all-American food, and we have more than 600 locations in the United States.

First-year royalties for new operators will be reduced from 5% to 2%. The royalties are adjusted to 3% in the second year and to 4% in the third, before returning to 5% in the fourth year.

President Paul Martino said the program underscores the company’s long-term focus. “Reducing royalties enables operators to spend more on their operations in those crucial first years,” he says, adding that the discounts will save the owner of a restaurant with $1 million in sales $60,000 in royalties. “As a franchisee-owned brand, A&W is in a unique position to make decisions that are best for the brand and its operators over the long haul, not the next quarter.”

Since being acquired from YUM! Brands in 2011, A&W has opened more than 60 new U.S restaurants; 15 are planned for 2019. Same-store sales on average have grown more than 32%, with AUVs also up by a third.

As part of the Second Century Growth Initiative, Martino was promoted from COO to president and given development responsibilities. Dave Crowley was hired as director of Franchise Recruitment, and the development department was restructured to add more resources to drive significant new store growth. A new flagship franchise training center is underway.

“The last seven years have brought a remarkable turnaround, and the system has been energized with more than 60 new restaurants,” says CEO Kevin Bazner. “Now, as we enter our second century, it’s time to really accelerate A&W’s expansion.”

America’s first and oldest restaurant chain, A&W still makes Root Beer fresh in each restaurant from real cane sugar, water and a proprietary blend of herbs, bark, spices and berries that are served in a frosty mug alongside burgers, fries, chicken tenders and other All American Food® favorites. There are nearly 1,000 locations worldwide.

Learn more

You can discover more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!

How the entire executive team supports our franchisees

The best fast food franchise to own is one that fully supports its franchisees. At A&W, you’ll find the best support anywhere.

The exterior of an A&W Restaurant, with an A&W sign and “All American Food” against an orange facade on the front of the building and blue skies with white clouds above.

At A&W Restaurants, our executive team works with franchisees in every sense of the word. We’re not just sitting in our corporate offices in Lexington, KY, with no clue how to run a restaurant. In fact, everyone in the head office works in an A&W restaurant once a quarter, because we never want to forget our true focus: Delivering a great experience for customers and a strong bottom line for franchisees. The insights we gain, plus that fact that our brand is owned by our franchisees, makes us one of the best fast food franchises to own, period.

Everyone on our corporate team earns bonuses based on profitable same-store sales growth, which has averaged almost 33% since 2011. That’s performance tied to bottom-line profitability rather than top-line revenues.

Support you can count on

Linda Mulder is one of our most venerable franchisees. Not only is she the daughter of A&W Chairman Dale Mulder, she also brought the Hand-Breaded Chicken tenders to our menu by market-testing her recipe and then working with A&W to smooth out kitchen processes and develop pricing models.

She and her three siblings are multi-unit owners, with 10 A&W restaurants in Michigan, and also own other fast-food franchise concepts. She says A&W stands out from other fast food franchises in distinct ways.

“The support I can count on from corporate is just great. I just opened a new restaurant, and they were there through the design process. I had beautiful drawings, 3D drawings showing the equipment, how it was placed, and that was a really valuable tool,” Mulder says.

“They were there through the whole process,” she says. “We had weekly calls on how far are you coming, how’s it going, and we had a very hands-on relationship with our field person. The week before we opened, she was there helping. So there was quite a bit of direct hands-on help and frankly, it was very nice to have that even though I’ve been in the business for many years. It was very much appreciated.”

Tom Thompson has owned the A&W in Dubuque, IA, since the mid ’90s. His family still owns several convenience stores, and he was raised working in the grocery stores his parents ran. He loves the opportunity with A&W to grow and is considering adding another location to his portfolio, which he’s confident the community would support.

A frosted A&W mug of rootbeer is pictured with an orange straw. An out-of-focus restaurant interior is the background.

Like Linda Mulder, he’s also impressed by the level of support he receives from corporate. “I think the best thing about being a franchisee in this particular business is probably the uniqueness of the relationship that A&W has with the franchisees, particularly through the franchisee’s association, the National A&W Franchisees Association,” Thompson says. “NAWFA has a contractual responsibility with corporate, getting involved in brand standards, marketing, what have you. As a result, that relationship is unique and I think one of the best reasons that Brand A&W is successful.”

Thompson says A&W’s support goes above and beyond, and that’s something prospective franchise buyers should know.

“I think a franchisee coming into this system can count on genuine support and not just lip service,” he says. “It’s not just in Lexington; we have regional meetings where questions are not just encouraged but they’re needed, and the dialogue that we develop over that helps set the stage for true support. True, genuine ‘I care about your restaurant’ support.”

Learn more

You can discover more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!

A&W adds detailed revenue picture for potential investors

The A&W FDD now includes specific earnings from franchisees, allowing investors to more easily assess the risks vs. the benefits of investing in our restaurants

The exterior of an A&W restaurant in daytime.

Looking to thoroughly vet our franchise before investing? No problem. We’ve added an Item 19 to our FDD.

If anything can be said to be exciting in the world of Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDDs), then we’re setting off some firecrackers this year: A&W has added an Item 19 Financial Performance Representation to our annual FDD for the first time since the acquisition from Yum! Brands. What that means for investors is a much clearer look at our historical financial performance.

To the uninitiated, an FDD is the annual filing required by the Federal Trade Commission that includes vital information an investor needs before they purchase a franchise. As Forbes writer Amy Feldman succinctly put it, “If you’re thinking of becoming a franchisee, the franchise disclosure document is chock-full of important pieces of information on how much you’ll be expected to invest, whether the brand is expanding or shrinking, how high the ongoing fees will be, and whether existing franchisees are mired in litigation with the franchisor.”

You should always read an FDD before buying a franchise, and the A&W FDD just added some of the most relevant information an investor could want.

Why an A&W Item 19 is good for investors

An Item 19 is considered by some legal experts as extra protection for investors, due to the detailed federal and individual state laws that specify how information is presented in the annual FDD filing. The information presented in our FDD goes through a thorough review by both our legal and executive teams to make certain everything is correct to the best of our ability to provide it.

We encourage investors to have their own legal counsel review any contracts before making a binding decision, but we want to be as open as possible about what A&W has to offer. We very strongly believe in our brand, especially since franchisees assumed ownership in 2011. Since then, all decisions are based on the collective decisions of our franchisees, and we have seen our same-store sales increase, on average, 33%.



“We’re very proud of our strong, consistently improving performance, and we think adding more details that reflect our financial performance only strengthens our value proposition for investors,” says President and CEO Kevin Bazner. “Our franchisees have made A&W Restaurants what it is today, and we want future franchise owners to get as thorough a picture of our company as possible before they join the A&W family.”

What any good Item 19 can tell you

Many franchisors include an Item 19 in their annual FDD. While the way the information is structured can vary greatly from company to company, the A&W Item 19 includes average net sales, median net sales, and high and low net sales reported by our franchise owners and separated into categories based on restaurant type. That includes freestanding restaurants with drive-thrus; restaurants with drive-thrus located at convenience stores and gas stations; and captive audience restaurants.

When can you see our Item 19?

We know that if you’ve been considering purchasing an A&W restaurant franchise, one of your key questions is, “How much can I make?” And one of the ways you try to estimate that, although no earnings are ever guaranteed, is by evaluating past performance of active franchisees.

All qualified franchise candidates will receive a free copy of our FDD, which includes the detailed Item 19, early in the franchise investigation process. In other words, once we’ve determined that you might be a good fit for us and vice-versa, we’ll send you the document for you to review. It’s part of the due diligence that every smart investor exercises before signing on the dotted line.

Learn more

If you’d like to discover more about the A&W investment, please take a look at our research pages. To start a conversation and request the latest A&W FDD, 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!