The A&W restaurant chain may not be the number one fast food franchise out there but they are for sure one of the longest running franchises. How can a company that is rarely talked about still be able to hold a candle to franchises like McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Chik-Fil-A?
10. A&W Actually Stands For Something
Many have probably wondered on numerous occasions what A&W stands for. Maybe you didn’t think it stood for anything. Apparently, it stands for Allen and Wright, the founders. They started the business on a whim in 1919. They quickly realized that they could take advantage of huge crowds that would show up at the veterans parade in Lodi, California. The duo was originally from Chicago, Illinois but were always willing to go where the money took them. Roy Allen, the “A” in A&W, had recently come across a root beer recipe that he knew he could capitalize off of. He decided to set up shop selling his root beer on the side of the street in summer. People were impressed and the popularity grew. He would then meet Frank Wright, the “W” in A&W. Wright quickly recommended that they open root beer shops around the city. California fell in love with the root beer but the partnership soon floundered and came to an end when Wright was bought out by Allen. With the name established, there was no point in changing the A&W monicker. So it was Roy Allen, solo, who continued to open up new shops, creating the A&W we all know and love today.
9. The Burger “Family” Doesn’t Exist In The US
When A&W first opened its doors it was meant to be a family-friendly atmosphere. It was more of a diner-looking kind of restaurant. The burgers and everything in there were meant to represent something family friendly. Hence the A&W burger family. The burgers were named Grandpa, Mama, Papa, Uncle, Teen, and Baby burger. Every once in a while the Grandma burger would make an appearance. In addition, they would sometimes kick it up a notch and upgrade an existing burger. Each family title was meant to be a recommendation for the corresponding family member. This idea goes back to when the first Canadian A&W’s opened in 1956. The family burger names still hold true to this day but they’ve also branched off with things such as the Mozza burger and other burgers that included new combinations like mushrooms. In the US the only trace of the burger family left to order is usually the Papa burger. Depending on where you go you may see the other family members but most of the A&W burger family has been replaced by regular old boring named burgers. The US menu also offers some chicken and fish options such as their Pub Style shrimp and cod baskets, chicken tenders and a chicken tender sandwich.
8. They Invented The Bacon Cheeseburger
Okay, so we know this is hard to believe. How can a chain restaurant considered to be smaller than your more popular fast food joints like McDonald’s claim to be the ones who invented putting bacon on cheeseburgers? Well A&W have a whole story behind their supposed invention. Apparently, this took place in 1963 when one of the A&W franchise owners in Michigan, Dale Mulder, realized that a lot of his customers were coming in and adding bacon to their cheeseburgers. He took the hint and added the option to the menu. Just like that Mulder was in a class of his own. His restaurant popularity no doubt grew once word got out that he was basically the only person doing this. Before anyone says this is impossible, the story has been told over and over again and no one has disputed it. In 2014 when A&W used this piece of bacon history in a commercial, no one came forward to claim otherwise. There have also been a number of journalists who set out to investigate this claim and surprise – nothing turned up that could prove it false. Could A&W have really been the first fast-food chain to make bacon on burgers a thing? It wouldn’t be a surprise as they certainly were one of the first places to take the Beyond Burger and make it a thing.
7. First Franchise Restaurant
A&W has been claiming for years now that they were the first fast-food chain to introduce franchise opportunities. Many fast food chains have also made declarations of being the first at something. For instance, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s are just 2 of many fast food chains that claimed they were the first to start the drive-thru window. Both have been met with contention. However, it doesn’t look like anyone is contesting A&W’s claim to be the first franchise fast food restaurant. Here are some things they have going for them to back this claim up. They were founded in 1919 and at that time there were not a lot of fast food restaurants around. In fact, many people were on rations because of a shortage in food and resources due to World War I. By 1922 Allen and Wright leased their first 2 root beer stands to other operators to be run in Sacramento. By 1925 they started regularly renting out their stands for a fee to people who were interested in making a side income or starting their own business. This sounds just like a franchise business model and seems like enough proof for us. At the time they were really the only company who had several root beer stands around the US, mainly in California. By 1950 they upgraded to diners and soon there were nearly 450 diners operating at the time. We clearly know Roy Allen was not running all of these diners and root beer stands by himself.
6. Want Spaghetti With That?
We have no idea who started this weird trend among the fast food places, but why do burger chains keep wanting to serve us spaghetti? There are over 1,100 A&W restaurants in the US and 850 in Canada, and spaghetti can be found on the US menu. The fast-food chain has over 35,000 menu variations in the US alone so spaghetti in a burger joint is kind of the least of our worries. After some digging, we discovered that A&W is kind of all over the map when it comes to their food offerings. They’ve been known to sell cheese curds, pork tenderloin sandwiches or even burritos depending on where the restaurant is located. I thought this was a burger joint? We have no idea what they will come up with next and, to be honest, we’re a little scared of what the possibilities are. No one wants to walk into an A&W and see lemon chicken or a panzerotti staring back at them.
5. They Make Root Beer On Site
Root Beer is the cornerstone of the A&W franchises. It’s always on tap and they have the tastiest recipe. If you’re a fan of root beer then you will love a frosted mug of it from the masters. If you’re not a fan, you might want to try the A&W root beer anyway – it’s in a class of its own. To this day, some of the franchises actually make their root beer on site using a paddle-stirred brewing kettle. The company has perfected its recipe and fine tuned the process so that it only takes a few hours a day to brew a fresh batch. Not many other fast food restaurants can say that they brew their own anything in the restaurant. This is clearly the reason why their root beer is the best on the market. In fact, their root beer has become so popular that it is now their own soft drink brand. A&W root beer is sold in grocery stores around the US and Canada. You can even pick up a sixer of it at your local A&W restaurant.
4. They Are Constantly Improving The Root Beer
A&W is known for its root beer. This is the product that kept them afloat all these years (no pun intended). So of course, they have stayed loyal to what put them on the map. It has been said that the one menu item they are constantly working on improving is their root beer. As previously mentioned, one of these improvements is having some of their locations make the famous root beer on site. Some of the other things the company has done is add cane sugar to their recipe, replacing the refined sugar or brown sugar once used. They’ve also experimented with new flavors like Aged Vanilla and Cream Soda. These flavors are available at most chains and even some grocery stores like Wegmans and Publix. They have offered Brownie Sundae root beer floats and they are always tinkering around in an effort to discover the next big thing when it comes to root beer. On their website, they have taken to posting recipes showing different ways you can up your root beer game. There’s no telling how many different types of root beer floats you can make at home. It all starts with a bottle of A&W.
3. The Mascot Is A Bear
First of all, yes, A&W does have a mascot and yes, he is a bear. To be exact his name is Rooty the Great Root Bear. He made his first appearance in 1974 but was sent into hibernation in 2000. I guess they no longer needed Rooty to draw attention to their restaurant. To be honest, he was never very popular. A lot of fast food chains had mascots that dominated in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but when the millennium rolled in, they lost their clout. This can be said for the likes of Ronald McDonald and his gang of misfits, the Jack-in-the-Box clown and so many more. However, a few years ago A&W decided to wake the bear from hibernation and make him work for that money. Rooty the Great Root Bear was recruited to run the A&W Twitter account and began posting like a social media obsessed tween. Apparently, this was working for the company so they decided to open up a few other social media accounts for him to run including their one on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, there was a little drama between Rooty and LinkedIn and the Great Root Bear was kicked off unexpectedly. When probed by A&W and other curious minds about getting the boot, LinkedIn stated matter of factly that Rooty is a mascot bear, not a human professional. Well, they aren’t wrong and it’s not like he could actually apply for jobs and attend workshops. A&W quickly learned that they would need to stay in their lane and that meant sticking with traditional social media outlets.
2. Breakfast Is About To Be Vegan
A&W recently partnered with Beyond Meat to add a tasty vegan option to their menu. This was initially available only in Canadian restaurants. However, the idea has proven so popular that they are considering adding the burger to their United States locations. This is yet to happen but, the Beyond Meat burger was so popular in Canada upon its release that every location that offered it would sell out almost immediately. Meats lovers, vegetarians, and vegans were devouring this burger every chance they got. So what is the natural next step? A breakfast sandwich. After all, vegetarians and vegans also have to eat breakfast and currently, there are few fast food places that offer a vegan option for breakfast. Much like the franchising idea, A&W is ahead of the game again. The breakfast sandwich launched on March 11 and it has been a hit so far. Social media is abuzz as individuals are tweeting, instagraming, snap chatting and youtubing about the new breakfast craze. A&W’s great idea is now being followed up by other fast food chains. Quesada Burritos & Tacos started selling the Beyond Meat Burrito — featuring Beyond Meat’s Feisty Crumbles – at its nearly 120 restaurants across Canada. We’ve got people on top of it who have tried all the Beyond Meat variations at A&W and the Quesada Beyond Meat taco. The conclusion? It’s tastes like meat.
1. A&W Canada And A&W US Are Not The Same
A&W in Canada and the US are on two different levels. So different in fact, that they are basically not connected. A&W’s in Canada and the US are basically two completely different franchises. This is mainly due to who they are owned by. In Canada, Unilever bought A&W and made the menus and restaurants geared more towards Canadians’ wants and needs. And if the name Unilever sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is the same company that make soaps, detergents and even tea among so many other random products. So what is essentially a chemical making company doing with a chain of fast food restaurants under their belt? We still don’t have a definite answer to that. In the US the fast food restaurants are mostly owned by individual franchise owners. So what’s the big difference? They both sell food and beverages and of course, they both sell their signature root beer and root beer floats. Even the logos are the same but in the US the tagline is “All American Foods” but that same tagline would obviously make no sense for the Canadian market. So the Canadian chain decided to focus on what’s in their food. So a lot of their commercials and advertisements focus on their “hormone and steroid-free meat products”. For a burger franchise that is not considered one of the big three, they sure must be doing something right – besides just root beer.