For the first time in more than 10 years, A&W Restaurants is reporting system-wide revenue and store count growth. The news comes as A&W celebrates its split five years ago from YUM! Brands and kicks off a new franchise sales initiative.
A&W, America’s oldest restaurant chain, was owned by YUM! for nine years. In late 2011, with sales suffering and the system losing units, a core group of franchisees purchased the brand. Kevin Bazner, A&W’s president prior to the YUM! acquisition, returned as president and CEO.
Other good news for the chain includes the opening of 15 new U.S. locations and 21 international stores in 2016, with 20 U.S. and 25 international locations slated to open in 2017. Sales are outpacing the industry, with stand-alone locations up more than 28 percent the last five years. Co-branded restaurants are up 20 percent.
"From day one our goal was to grow profitable sales, and thanks to our franchise partners’ commitment, perseverance and passion, we have accomplished that,” Bazner says. "Today, our franchisees are more profitable than ever before, which sets the stage for a new phase of growth.”
A&W just kicked off an aggressive development program that includes a new franchising website, the hiring of a public relations firm, increased advertising and greater visibility at trade shows. A&W is targeting gas and convenience, as well as traditional franchisees nationwide.
There are currently more than 625 U.S. A&Ws with approximately 375 co-branded with KFC or Long John Silver’s. There are 87 gas and convenience store locations.
“Being franchisee-owned, our operators have much more input than with most brands, and we also give them far more flexibility to tailor their restaurants to their markets,” Bazner says. “And unlike many chains that are now owned by equity groups, our owners have no exit strategy, allowing us to continue to make long-term decisions and investments.”