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A&W Eyes Midwest for Major Expansion Opportunities

Aiming to leverage a wealth of positive brand recognition, the all-American franchise brand is seeking new franchise partners in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

By Derek Stephens1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSORED 1:13PM 09/30/22

A&W, the iconic American-food franchise known for its classic food and frosted mugs of root beer, is now setting its sights on the Midwest for expansion. The brand has a long history in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, which represent some of the largest densities for the company on a state-by-state basis. Because the brand is well-loved in the region, A&W is aiming to capitalize on that brand awareness by establishing new restaurants with skilled Midwestern entrepreneurs.

“Even with all the interest and buzz in the area, there is still a lot of green grass,” said John Palumbo, senior director of Franchise Development. “It’s the perfect formula for new franchise owners: a lot of awareness and a lot of white space.”

According to Palumbo, these territories are purposefully untapped. A&W approaches franchising differently than many other brands in that they only seek responsible growth. Vetting potential franchisees and ensuring quality leadership are critical to the company’s values.

“We don’t just collect agreements and checks,” he said. “We want people with the right operational experience or the will to learn and do things right. We owe it to our franchise community and partners to protect the brand's integrity, which means bringing in the right people and connecting them with the right real estate.”

A&W’s Positive Brand Awareness

With over 100 years in the Midwest markets, the company has established a personal connection with its consumers. For generations, families have been flocking to A&W restaurants with deep affection for its iconic menu. This historical component elevates the brand above others in the QSR segment.

“One of our big menu items is cheese curds with 100% white Wisconsin cheddar,” said Palumbo. “So we have strong roots in that part of the country, and the customer base knows and feels that.”

Phil Welch, a third-generation franchisee in Franksville, Wisconsin, continues to operate the A&W his grandfather founded because of a deep respect for the tradition and familiarity of the brand. He also admires the network of A&W franchisees that support each other like family.

“I’ve made lifelong friends in the franchise system,” said Welch. “I’m not the only third-generation owner in our circle. For example, I was connected with owners in the Clintonville area, and now that their daughter has taken over, we’re close with her as well. There are many stories like that about family-run stores that are all about American core values.”

Why Now Is the Time To Invest in A&W

During and following the pandemic, A&W has noticed a reinvigorated relationship with restaurant-goers, causing an increase in customer demand for the classic franchise. Stores are reporting record-high engagement and sales as a result.

“Research has shown that people went back to what feels good, comfortable and familiar because of the pandemic, and that has driven new activity in retail sales,” said Palumbo. “A&W is a legacy brand. As a result, customers have been asking why there aren’t more locations. Our growth is organic in response to that demand.”

The total investment necessary to begin operation, not including rent or land costs, is $871,000 to $1,454,750 for a Freestanding Restaurant; $401,000 to $1,013,750 for an Inline Restaurant; and $276,000 to $704,000 for a Captive Restaurant, including a $15,000-$30,000 franchise fee. To learn more about franchise opportunities with A&W Restaurants, please visit