Same-store sales at A&W’s U.S. single-brand franchised restaurants grew 9.7 percent last year, marking the ninth straight year of annual comp sales growth. Across the entire system, sales were up 8.5 percent. Since A&W was acquired by franchisees in 2011, comps are up 51 percent. Last year’s trend is continuing, with January same-store sales up 20 percent, making it the best single month of sales growth since 2011.
“If you look across the burger chain landscape, it’s hard to find any other players experiencing this level of consistent growth,” says Chief Executive Kevin Bazner. A&W, with more than 900 restaurants in Asia and the U.S., was struggling when a franchise group bought it in 2011 from YUM! Brands. Bazner was appointed CEO by the new owners.
Even before the pandemic hit, A&W’s performance was outpacing many category chains. “Last year our brand strategy, launched in 2012, proved to be even more relevant,” Bazner said. “We also saw how tenacious our franchise partners are, as they are the ones who persevered and worked against the odds to succeed during such a challenging period. I am immensely grateful to them and to our support center team.”
Unlike other brands, A&W has avoided discounting and focused on food quality. It also stayed true to its “All American Food” positioning. “It’s often said that people search for comfort, familiarity and a bit of self-indulgence during difficult times,” he added. “Our famous Root Beer Floats served in frosty mugs, burgers, fries, hand-breaded chicken tenders and Wisconsin Cheese Curds are examples of food that consumers crave right now and always will.”
Bazner is very bullish on the nearly 102-year-old chain’s post-pandemic future. Franchise development is on the uptick, with 15 restaurants currently in development. “A&W’s performance during the pandemic has caught the attention of more prospective franchisees, especially those who operate other restaurant brands, c-stores and travel centers,” Bazner says.