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How Legacy Franchise Brand A&W Restaurants Keeps Customers Coming Back

There’s something about a frosty mug of Root Beer — and authentic American food — that never goes out of style.

By Chris LaMorte1851 Franchise Editor
Updated 12:12PM 06/22/21

A&W is nearly synonymous with Root Beer — and for good reason. After 102 years in business, the restaurant franchise still serves its signature drink the way your grandparents (and great-grandparents) enjoyed it: in a sturdy frosty mug with a trickle of ice melting down the side. 

It’s true — some things never go out of style. 

The focus on quality and tradition may explain why A&W has experienced a brand renaissance lately, with customers flocking to this living piece of Americana. Over the past decade, the brand’s sales at its 500-plus U.S. stores have surged and are up 33% over 2011. 

“People will gravitate to the brands they know. A&W is one of those brands,” Kevin Bazner, CEO of A&W restaurants, said. “We looked at our history of making Root Beer fresh in our restaurants and brought that back. In the day of craft beverages, we’re the original. There’s a lot of demand for what our brand has to offer.”  

Even a pandemic couldn’t slow its momentum. In fact, it may have accelerated the growth. As Americans look for reassurance in troubling times through great memories of delicious food, this truly iconic American brand has delivered it in all its glory. 

“We made a commitment to get all of our team members and franchise partners to the other side of this pandemic,” said Bazner. “The good news going forward is consumers will gravitate towards legacy brands, so we’re recommitting ourselves to things that are uniquely A&W. People want something familiar, authentic and positive in their lives more than ever.”

The Favorites: Freshly Made Root Beer & Hand-Breaded Tenders

This A&W renaissance comes as Americans say they care more about the authenticity and quality of their food more than at any point in the last quarter-century. So while A&W harkens back to simpler times of soda jerks and drive-in diners, it also perfectly aligns with the zeitgeist, where customers seek tradition over mass production. 

That’s why A&W, born as a little roadside stand in Lodi, California, remains a one-of-a-kind American original.

A&W hand-crafts its Root Beer at each of its 500-plus U.S. stores. Its signature beverage offers consumers an experience that other restaurants are not providing them. So if you want a frosty mug of A&W Root Beer on draft, there is only one place in the world to get it, and that’s at an A&W restaurant. 

“The frosty mug is at the core of everything we do,” said Liz Bazner, A&W’s director of digital. “We’re the only place with A&W on tap. We’re the only place making it fresh in the restaurants. We’re offering our guests an experience, and one that goes beyond just the food. It gives a special reason for people to come in, to bring their families.  And, let’s be honest, Root Beer just tastes better when you have it in a frosty mug. ”

But quality goes beyond the iconic drink, too. A&W has put quality first in its food menu as well, through options such as its fresh Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders and double burgers made with 100% U.S. beef.  

Speaking of originals, the company doesn’t want you to forget its other achievement: A&W’s current Chairman, Dale Mulder, invented the Bacon Cheeseburger in 1963. It has remained a classic ever since. 

An Iconic Sense of Place: How A&W Wins With Nostalgia 

In 2020, customers re-discovered the original curbside pickup — the drive-in. About a quarter of the A&W stores offer this style of dining, while drive-thru sales also surged since last year. 

“It’s hard to serve a frosty mug when you’re rushing people through,” said John Palumbo, A&W’s senior director of franchise development. “Our customers are here for the experience as well as the food.” he said. 

A&W has hit that sweet spot for its customers. It’s a place that offers a true one-of-a-kind dining experience coupled with the hand-crafted, quality food Americans are seeking now more than ever. 

Now, that’s something to raise a frosty mug to.

The total investment to franchise with A&W Restaurants ranges from $276,000 to $1,397,000, including a $15,000 to $30,000 franchise fee. For more information on franchising with A&W, please visit