|Type||Private, with publicly traded income fund|
(A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund)
|Founded||Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1956 )|
|Headquarters||North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
Number of locations
|Susan Senecal (CEO & President)|
|Products||Root beer, hamburgers, chicken burgers, veggie burgers, onion rings, french fries, sweet potato fries, breakfast items, and previously, hot dogs|
|Revenue||$99.4 million CAD (2016)|
|$9.4 million CAD (2016)|
Number of employees
|Parent||A&W Restaurants (1956–1972)|
A&W Trade Marks Limited Partnership (Trademark only)
A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. is a Canadian fast food restaurant chain. The chain was originally part of the U.S.-based A&W Restaurants chain, but was sold to Unilever in 1972, and then bought by its management in 1995. It no longer has any corporate connection to A&W operations outside of Canada.
The Canadian operation is owned and operated by the privately held A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2020, A&W was Canada's second-largest quick service restaurant burger chain with 974 franchises, after McDonald's with 1,480 franchises.
In 1975, facing competition from the growing Canadian operations of McDonald's, the company launched what was to have been a temporary advertising campaign starring an orange-clad mascot, The Great Root Bear. The bear and the tuba jingle that accompanied him became a long-running campaign (the tune, entitled "Ba-Dum, Ba-Dum", was released as a single by Attic Records, credited to "Major Ursus", a play on Ursa Major or "great bear"). The famous Canadian composer and B.C. Hall of Fame winner Robert Buckley helped compose the song. The mascot was so successful that he was eventually adopted as the mascot by the American A&W chain as well. The famous tuba jingle was played by famed Vancouver jazz, classical and session trombonist Sharman King. King also did the ads for the "Book Warehouse" chain of discount book stores, which he owned.
In the early 1980s, the drive-in style of restaurant was phased out. It was replaced with a modern, pastel-coloured fast food outlet which included marginally healthier options. While the chain continued to open some standalone restaurants, A&W also aggressively pursued shopping mall locations, and as a result A&Ws are still commonly found in Canadian malls of various sizes.
1995 sale to A&W Trade Marks Limited Partnership
In 1995, the chain was bought from Unilever by senior management. During 1997 and 1998, Drew Carey served as a spokesperson for the chain, appearing in TV ads alongside the Great Root Bear; he was dismissed (with legal action ensuing) after a November 1998 episode of The Drew Carey Show featured Carey eating at a McDonald's location in China.
By the end of the 1990s, marketing and products began to take on a more retro approach. Former menu items, such as the Burger Family, were reintroduced, and marketing became more targeted toward the baby boomer generation. The Great Root Bear and (in English Canada) the "ba-dum ba-dum" theme were also retired from most advertising (the tuba theme is still used in French-language ads). A new restaurant design was introduced, featuring a bright orange and yellow exterior, reminiscent of the 1950s, while the interior is decorated with memorabilia associated with the same period. Existing restaurants were renovated to match the new style. Meanwhile, with malls in decline, A&W began to focus on opening new standalone restaurants, particularly in smaller markets where McDonald's was often the only major hamburger chain. The last drive-in style restaurant closed in 2000, in Langley, British Columbia.
In 2001, Allen Lulu appeared in an A&W commercial for the first time. He continues to appear in TV ads at present.
2002 listing on Toronto Stock Exchange
On February 15, 2002, the A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The initial public offering was 8.34 million units at $10 each. The fund owns the A&W trademarks in Canada and licenses them to A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. Revenue is generated by charging a three percent royalty on gross sales of each restaurant. Television advertisements are filmed at locations in the Fraser Valley. In June 2006, A&W celebrated 50 years in Canada. Some Quebec locations had been Dunkin' Donuts locations until Dunkin' Donuts closed most locations in Quebec.
Two new restaurant concepts were introduced in the fall of 2009. The new standalone restaurant design is ultra modern but with some architectural markings reminiscent of the design in the earlier buildings erect from A&W back in time. There is also a new separate format for urban (i.e., downtown) locations, where some of the baby-boomer aspects are scaled back in favour of a more modern look. On November 21, 2013, the chain opened its 800th location in downtown Montreal. The company's advertising also shifted to a focus on animal welfare, such as chicken and beef raised without antibiotics.
Apart from the namesake brand of root beer, the A&W menu is focused on "The Burger Family", a lineup of hamburgers introduced by the U.S. A&W chain in the early 1960s, mostly discontinued in the 1980s in favour of a more standard menu, then reintroduced in Canada and expanded upon beginning in the late 1990s.
The Burger Family
The original Burger Family lineup consists of the Baby, Mama, Teen and Papa burgers. They are still sold today along with other burgers named after other family members:
- Baby Burger: small beef patty (1.6 oz), ketchup, unseeded hamburger bun
- Mama Burger: regular beef patty (3 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
- Teen Burger: regular beef patty (3 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, bacon, Teen Sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese slice, sesame seed bun
- Papa Burger: two regular beef patties (6 oz total), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
- Grandpa Burger: three regular beef patties (9 oz total), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
- Uncle Burger: large beef patty (5 oz), red onion slice, pickles, ketchup, Chubby mayo, Uncle Sauce, lettuce, tomato, sesame seed bun
- Papa Teen Burger regular beef patty (3 oz×2),onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, bacon, teen sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese slice, sesame seed bun
Discontinued members of the Burger Family include the Grandma Burger, a prime rib burger topped with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce and the Sirloin Burger Twins, which were a pair of sliders.
Another 1960s-era offering, Chubby Chicken, returned to the menu shortly after the reintroduction of the Burger Family. Chubby burgers are breaded all white-meat chicken breasts. There are three varieties offered:
- The Original Chubby Burger which is made on sesame seed bun, and comes with Chubby Mayo (Hellmann's Mayo), and lettuce.
- The Spicy Habanero Chicken Burger is made on a seeded bun with a spicy chicken portion, and comes with jalapeño aioli, lettuce and tomato.
- BLT Chubby Burger is made on a 7-grain bun, and comes with Chubby Mayo (Hellmann's Mayo), two slices of bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
These can be ordered by themselves, or in combos. They also offer all white-meat chicken strips which come in either 3 or 5, by themselves, or in combos. The chicken strips may also be ordered in wraps such as the "Chipotle Chicken wrap" and the "Bacon Ranch wrap". Some locations offer fried chicken bone-in pieces.
In 2012 A&W introduced its first value burger, the Buddy Burger. It is also available in a double patty variant, the Double Buddy burger. It can both ordered both with or without cheese. The release of the Buddy burger made A&W more competitive with competitors such as McDonald's who already had value burgers like the McDouble.
In 2015 A&W piloted the new Chicken Buddy burger at some select locations. It was successful and added to the value menu permanently in 2016.
- Buddy Burger: one or two small beef patties (1.6 oz), mustard, ketchup, Teen Sauce, grilled onions, unseeded hamburger bun; available in double or single patty versions and with cheese or without cheese.
- Chicken Buddy Burger: one or two breaded chicken patties, mayonnaise, pickles, unseeded hamburger bun; value burgers, available in double or single patty versions
A&W launched a revamped version of their breakfast offering in the summer of 2014. In addition to the Bacon N' Egger (called Chef-d'œuf in Quebec), Sausage N' Egger, and Classic Bacon N' Eggs, they launched several new items including The All-Canadian Special and pancakes. Customers can choose to have their breakfast sandwiches made with either English muffins or with buns. In 2017, A&W announced that it would offer All-Day Breakfast, to compete with McDonald's.
In July 2018, A&W locations began serving Beyond Meat's vegan Beyond Burger. The chain had a shortage of the Beyond Burger in August 2018, but announced that all locations would receive stock by October 2018. In 2019 A&W expanded its Beyond Meat offerings with the release of the Beyond Meat Sausage N' Egger.
- Beyond Meat Burger: Beyond Meat patty, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, red onion, pickles, lettuce, tomato, sesame seed bun, A&W seasoning
- Beyond Meat Sausage N' Egger: Beyond Meat sausage patty, margarine, egg, cheddar cheese, English muffin
A&W also sells their Mozza Burger, which isn't part of the burger family or the value menu. It consists of a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, mozzarella cheese, and their special Mozza sauce on a sesame seed bun. Other offerings include the Veggie Deluxe (veggie burger with mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles), traditional hot dogs, and the Whistle Dog (topped with cheese and bacon). Available sides include french fries, poutine, and thick-cut onion rings. Sweet potato fries have been added to the menu in some locations. The sweet potato fries are served with a small container of chipotle mayo. Drinks include A&W Root Beer and other Coca-Cola soft drinks, along with organic Van Houtte coffee, milkshakes, and A&W Root Beer floats (made with pre-portioned scoops of frozen ice cream by Nestlé). The ketchup and mustard served at A&W location are processed by French's at their Ontario facility and use only Canadian ingredients.
The Canadian menu has some similarities to the current offerings of the American chain, but, owing to their independent management, also diverges in many respects. The only Burger Family product available by name in U.S. locations is the Papa Burger, although it differs significantly (adding lettuce, tomato, and cheese slices which are not included by default on the Canadian product). However, the American "Original Bacon Cheeseburger" appears to be almost exactly equivalent to the Teen Burger available in Canada. Notable products on the U.S. menu not available in Canada include deep-fried cheese curds, cheese fries, and soft serve-based products such as sundaes. The Whistle Dog, a hot dog dressed with cheese, bacon and relish, was available in Canada, but was discontinued at the end of 2016, as was the regular hot dog.
The chicken and eggs served at A&W are from hens who lived in enriched cages and were fed a vegetarian diet, even though chickens are omnivores. Antibiotics are only used in the company's animals when medically necessary, and those animals are taken out of production. Most pork products supplied to the chain are from pigs raised in gestation crates; however, A&W claims to be trying to phase them out. A&W has also announced plans for their meat production to meet Global Animal Partnership's level 2 certification, but did not provide a specific date.
The A&W trademarks are owned by A&W Trade Marks Limited Partnership. The Partnership licenses the trademarks to A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. in exchange for a royalty of 3% of the sales of A&W restaurants in Canada. A&W Food Services owns ~21% of A&W Trade Marks Inc. which is the sole general partner in the Partnership, while the rest is owned by A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund.
- "Company". aw.ca. A&W. Retrieved 31 Jul 2018.
A&W has continued to grow, expanding into over 960 locations from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland.
- "Consolidated Financial Statements" (PDF). A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. February 6, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 26, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- "A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund > About the Fund". www.awincomefund.ca. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
- "Company Overview of A&W Food Services of Canada Inc". Businessweek. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
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- "Our History in Canada". A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- "Restaurant chain celebrates 50 years of rings, root beer". CBC News. June 13, 2006. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- Cowan, Micki (May 22, 2012). "Book Warehouse remains standing in Vancouver. New owner won't change name". Vancouver Courier. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
- Ryan, Joal (January 13, 1999). "Drew Carey's Ill-Timed Big Mac Attack". EOnline.com. Retrieved January 13, 2013. Note that this source incorrectly implies that Carey was a spokesperson for the independently-owned American A&W chain.
- Claxton, Matthew (September 8, 2011). "'Dub' cruised". Langley Advance. Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- "A&W Canada opens its 800th restaurant, downtown Montréal" (Press release). Montreal, Quebec: CNW Group. November 22, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
- Sagan, Aleksandra (13 May 2018). "Meet A&W's first female CEO". Vancouver is Awesome. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
- Hernandez, Jon (8 June 2018). "A&W Canada to eliminate plastic straws from all restaurants". CBC News. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- "Nutritional Facts". A&W Food Services of Canada. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- "Report to Unitholders of A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund January 4, 2016 to January 1, 2017" (PDF). A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. p. 12. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
- Pataki, Amy (21 June 2018). "What does The Star's restaurant critic think of A&W's new veggie burger?". Toronto Star. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- William-Ross, Lindsay (12 September 2018). "FINALLY: The Beyond Meat Burger is back at A&W soon". Vancouver is Awesome. Glacier Media. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- "Beyond meat launches new breakfast sausage at A&W canada". Beyond Meat. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
- Commisso, Christina (29 March 2016). "A&W makes switch to French's ketchup in Canada". CTV News. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
- "Menu". A&W Restaurants (U.S.). Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "A&W wants cage-free eggs in 2 years and that means rapid change for farmers". CBC News. 11 March 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
- Sagan, Aleksandra (9 August 2016). "A&W boosts sales with focus on quality ingredients, strong customer experience". Toronto Star. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
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