|Type||Wholly owned subsidiary|
|Founded||Lodi, California, United States (1919 )|
|Founder(s)||Roy W. Allen
|Headquarters||Lexington, Kentucky, United States|
|Number of locations||about 1,200|
|Area served||16 countries and territories|
|Products||Hot dogs, root beer, cheese curds, hamburgers, chicken|
|Parent||A Great American Brand LLC|
A&W Restaurants, Inc., is a chain of fast-food restaurants distinguished by its draft root beer and root beer floats. A&W was arguably the first successful food franchise company, starting franchises in California, in 1923. The company name was taken from the surname initials of partners Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright. The company became famous in the United States for its "frosty mugs," where the mug would be kept in the freezer prior to being filled with root beer and served to the customer.
Today, it has franchise locations throughout much of the world, serving a typical fast food menu of hamburgers and french fries, as well as hot dogs. A number of its outlets are drive-in restaurants with carhops. Previously owned by Yum! Brands, the chain was sold to a consortium of A&W franchisees, through A Great American Brand LLC, in December 2011. The root beer served in each restaurant location is prepared onsite, using real cane sugar and a proprietary blend of herbs, bark, spices, and berries.
A&W began in June 1919, at 13 Pine Street in Lodi, California, when Roy W. Allen opened his first root beer stand. Two years later, Allen began franchising the drink, arguably the first successful food-franchising operation. His profits came from a small franchise fee and sales. The following year, Allen partnered with Frank Wright to help Wright with the root beer business he'd started that year. They branded their product A&W Root Beer.
In 1923, they opened their first drive-in restaurant, in Sacramento, California, creating the nation's first system of franchise roadside restaurants. The chain went international in 1956, when A&W opened in Winnipeg and Montreal, Canada. By 1960, A&W had 2,000 retail stores.
In 1963, the chain opened its first store on Okinawa. Also that year, the first bacon cheeseburger from a chain restaurant was served at one of the A&W locations. In the following years, the chain branched into other foreign markets, including the Philippines and Malaysia.
In 1971, a beverage division began, supplying bottled A&W products to grocery stores. The soft drinks sold under A&W are root beer and cream soda (both original and diet), made by Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc.
In the 1970s, A&W had more stores than McDonald's. Oshkosh, Wisconsin franchise manager Jim Brajdic said: "Problems back then, including a lawsuit, franchisee discontent and inconsistencies in the operation, caused the chain to flounder and branches to close."
In 1989, A&W made an agreement with Minnesota-based Carousel Snack Bars to convert that chain's 200 stores (mostly kiosks in shopping malls) to A&W Hot Dogs & More. Some A&W Hot Dogs & More are still operating. In the late 2000s, A&W added franchises with a nostalgic look and modern technology. They have a carhop design with drive-thrus and some have picnic tables.
A&W opened its first outlet in Bangladesh on 15 December 2010. The food served is 100% halal and is very popular with the local youth population, with root beer being the driving force of the large number of sales. A&W Bangladesh serves an "All you can eat offer" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and "Boishakhi Bonanza" during the Bengali new year.
Before 2011, A&W (besides Canada), was a Yum! Brands, Inc. company. Most A&W stores that opened in the U.S. in recent years were co-branded with another of Yum!'s chains—Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or Kentucky Fried Chicken.
In January 2011, Yum! Brands announced its intention to sell A&W along with Long John Silver's. Citing poor sales for both divisions, Yum! planned to focus on international expansion for its remaining brands, with particular emphasis on growth in China. In September 2011, Yum! announced that they would sell the chain to A Great American Brand, LLC, a consortium of various A&W franchisees, both in the United States and overseas. The sale was finalized on December 19, 2011.
As of 2011, the chain consisted of more than 1,200 restaurants, 350 of which were international stores in ten countries and territories.
In 1963, A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger. Each burger had a wrapper featuring a cartoon image of the corresponding character. Many locations featured fiberglass statues of the family in front of their stores. The Papa Burger consisted of two 1/8-pound beef patties, with two slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and A&W's proprietary sauce (similar to thousand island dressing), on a sesame seed bun. The Mama Burger was the same, only with a single 1/8-pound patty and a plain bun, while the Teen Burger had a single 1/4-pound patty and included slices of bacon (also served on a sesame seed bun). The Baby Burger was made with one 1/8-pound beef patty, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, served on a plain bun.
Rooty, the Great American Root Bear, originated in Canada in 1974. Throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Rooty was the face of A&W, both the bottled drinks and the restaurant chain, on television and print advertising. His presence all but disappeared in the late 1990s, but in 2011, under new ownership, Rooty has come out of retirement. He has since been featured in print ads, on A&W's website, as the voice of their official Twitter account, and in a variety of YouTube and Vine videos. In 2013 Rooty became the first mascot to have an official Linkedin profile, which was quickly shut down as Rooty was not considered "real" by the authorities at Linkedin.
In the spring of 2013 A&W introduced their first new product in several years, a 6 ounce version of their soft serve blended dessert treat. Mini Polar Swirls were the first product to be officially launched on Vine. The following summer 250 of A&W's restaurants began hand- breading their Chicken Tenders, moving towards higher-quality menu items and expanding their chicken category. In April 2014 the Hand- Breaded Chicken Tender Texas Toast Sandwich was added to the menu as a limited time offering, along with a campaign to create the world's longest branded hashtag.
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- Newmann, Andrew Adam (22 April 2014). "With a Mouthful, A&W Hopes to Draw Baby Boomers’ Offspring". New York Times.
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