The History Of The A & W Drive In

A&W Restaurants, Inc. is a fast-food restaurant distinguished and known for its unique draft of root beer floats and root beer.  In the year 1919, A&W launched a drive-in restaurant in Lodi, California. The name of the company was taken from the initials of the surname of partners Allen and Wright (Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright). The company became very popular in America for its “frosty mugs”. This mug was kept in the freezer to be filled with root beer and served to the customer of the restaurant.

In the year 1925, A&W Restaurant started its franchise. Today, its franchise locations are all over the world. They serve a typical fast-food menu of French fries, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Most of its outlets are drive-in restaurants which have carhops. In December 2011, a restaurant which was previously owned by Yum! Brands were sold to an A&W franchisees consortium, through A Great American Brand, LLC.

A&W restaurants situated in Canada were part of an unaffiliated and a separate chain since 1972.

A&W Drive-in History

In the month of June 1919, Roy W. Allen launched his first root beer stand in Lodi, California. In the year 1923, A&W started when Allen and Wright launched an A&W drive-in restaurant in the region of Sacramento, California. They combined both of their surname initials for the company name, and they sold the root beer from Roy W. Allen’s stand. Curbside services were offered by tray boys and girls. In the year 1924, Allen bought  Wright’s stake in the business. In the year 1925, Allen started the franchise of the root beer, while the franchisee operated at their discretion and added the other menu items. This has been the first successful and thriving food-franchising operation. In the year1950, Allen sold the company and retired.


During the year of expansion between 1950 and 1960, franchisees began to sign 20 or 25-year contracts. They did this under the old model. In the year 1956, the chain went international when A&W Restaurant was launched in Winnipeg, Quebec, Manitoba and Montreal, Canada. In the year 1960, A&W owned over 2,000 retail stores. In the year 1963, the chain launched its first store in Okinawa. In the coming years, the chain had branches in other foreign markets, which included the Malaysia and Philippines.

In the same year 1963, the company was resold followed by another resale in the year 1967 to United Fruit Co. Conglomerate. In 1970, AMK Corporation bought the United Fruit. Then AMK company formed United Brands Company in order to hold and sustain A&W.

In the year 1971, A&W Beverages, Inc. (a beverage subsidiary) started to supply bottled A&W products to most of the grocery stores. The products became available nationally with a quick pace.

In the year 1970s, A&W owned more stores than McDonald nationwide with a peak of 2,400 units in 1974. Jim Brajdic, the franchise manager of Oshkosh, Wisconsin said “Problems back then, that includes a lawsuit, inconsistencies, and franchisee discontent in the operation caused the falling of the chain and the closing of branches.  A&W company advanced to a modernized style of the franchise agreement which introduced new standards and royalty payments. However, as their year of contract agreements expired, many franchisees did not agree to the revised terms.

In the year 1980, A&W started to offer the “Third Pounder” thereby competing with McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. The A&W Third beat the McDonald’s Quarter in terms of taste and cost. All these were cited in the marketing and distribution of the burger. However, most people were assuming  that the Quarter Pounder has more meat than the Third Pounder, so they refused to buy it.

In the year1982, A&W restaurant was bought by A. Alfred Taubman. He placed the company under Taubman Investment Co. Taubman didn’t buy the A&W Beverages, he only bought the restaurant company. In the mid-80s, the chain dropped to less than 500 locations.
A&W Great Food Restaurants, a new format concept was introduced and developed. Ten locations owned by corporate firms were opened to test the concept, which was an upscale and family theme restaurant with a large homemade ice cream and salad bar.

In the year 1986, the company had its headquarter in Livonia, Michigan and Mulder became the president and CEO. In this year, a push occurred that led to an additional 60 franchise units.

In the year 1989, A&W had an agreement with Carousel Snack Bars (they’re based in Minnesota)  to convert the 200 stores of the chain (which is mostly kiosks in the shopping malls) to A&W Hot Dogs Restaurant & More. Most of the A&W Hot Dogs Restaurant & More are still in operation.

In the year 1995, A&W was sold to Sidney Feltenstein by Taubman.  A&W combined with Long John Silver’s to form the Yorkshire Global Restaurants that are based in Lexington, Kentucky. In the year 2000, Yorkshire Restaurant decided to test locations that are multi-branded with Tricon Global Restaurants. In the month of March, the year 2000, the Yorkshire-Tricon multi-branding test consisted of six KFC/Long John Silver’s, three Taco Bell/Long John Silver’s and 83 KFC/A&Ws. This was a huge success for both companies.

Late in the year, A&W added franchises, with a modern technology. And a nostalgic look. They possess a carhop design with drive-through and picnic tables.

Their Mascot History

In 1963, A&W introduced four hamburger choices: Mama Burger, Papa Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger. Each of the burgers had a wrapper that featured an image of a cartoon for the corresponding character.

The Great American Root Bear “Rooty” was originated in Canada in the year1974. It appeared first in America in 1976. All through the1970, 1980, and 1990, A&W had the face of Rooty, both in the restaurant chain, in the bottled drinks, on print advertising and on television. His presence suddenly disappeared in the late 90s, but in the year 2011, Rooty came out of retirement under a new ownership. He has been featured on A&W’s website and in print ads in a variety of YouTube and Vine videos and as the voice of their official Twitter account. In the year 2013, Rooty was recorded as the first mascot to have an official profile on Linkedin, but it was quickly shut down by the authorities at Linkedin as Rooty was considered not to be real.

Their New Products

In the year 2013, A&W introduced its first new product after several years- a six-ounce version of its soft-serve blended dessert treat. In the next summer, 250 of A&W’s restaurants began to hand-bread their Chicken Tenders. They moved towards a unique quality menu items and expanded their chicken category. In the year 2014, they added the Hand- Breaded Chicken Tender Texas Toast Sandwich to the menu. They also had a campaign of creating the longest branded hashtag in the world. In the same year in June, A&W released two new flavors of its Polar Swirl dessert treat-Nutter Butter and Sour Patch Kids.

Video below is a A&W Root Beer Commercial from 1972



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