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A&W Getting Back in the Game


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With fond memories of A&W root beer floats with my parents and brother when I was a kid, I’m happy to hear the news that the brand is back on the gas five years after its sale by Yum. For the first time in more than 10 years, A&W is reporting systemwide revenue and store count growth, as it kicks off a new franchise sales initiative.

Did you know that A&W is America’s oldest restaurant chain? I didn’t either, until I read the press release, which included news that after the brand struggled during and after its Yum ownership, the brand’s previous president, Kevin Bazner, has been brought back to return A&W to its glory days.

During 2016, the chain opened 15 new U.S. locations and 21 new international stores. For 2017, plans call for  20 new U.S. and 25 new international locations to open. So far, sales are outpacing the industry, according to the company, with standalone locations up more than 28 percent in the last five years. Co-branded restaurants are up 20 percent.

"From day one our goal was to grow profitable sales, and thanks to our franchise partners’ commitment, perseverance and passion, we have accomplished that,” Bazner said. "Today, our franchisees are more profitable than ever before, which sets the stage for a new phase of growth.”

A&W’s aggressive development plan includes a new franchising website, the hiring of a public relations firm, increased advertising and greater visibility at trade shows. A&W is targeting gas and convenience, as well as traditional franchisees nationwide.

There are currently more than 625 U.S. A&Ws with approximately 375 co-branded with KFC or Long John Silver’s. There are 87 gas and convenience store locations.

According to Bazner, A&W is unique among chain restaurants. “Being franchisee-owned, our operators have much more input than with most brands, and we also give them far more flexibility to tailor their restaurants to their markets,” he said. “And unlike many chains that are now owned by equity groups, our owners have no exit strategy, allowing us to continue to make long-term decisions and investments.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is staff writer at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 
Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner.
 

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