A&W: Home of the Burger Family

February 5, 2022

Bring Home the Root Beer

There are 1,027 A&W locations in Canada and 515 in the United States

Back on June 20, 1919, a man by the name of Roy W. Allen opened a root beer stand in Lodi, California. The first mug of root beer was served at a homecoming parade for World War I veterans. Four years later, Allen and his friend, Frank Wright, opened a drive-in restaurant in Sacramento, California. They chose the first letter of each of their last names to come up with A&W as the name for their restaurant.

In 1924, Allen purchased Frank Wright’s stake in the business. The next year, Allen began franchising the root beer, allowing franchisees to add whatever other menu items they wished.

Allen sold the company in 1950 and retired.

The 1950s and 1960s were expansion years, with franchisees signing 20- or 25-year contracts. In 1956, the chain expanded into Canada opening restaurants in Winnipeg and Montreal.

By 1960, A&W had 2,000 restaurants.

 In 1963, the chain opened its first store on the island of Okinawa, Japan, and in the following years branched out to the Philippines and Malaysia. It was the first U.S. chain restaurant to expand to Southeast Asia (1966).

The birth of the Bacon Cheeseburger
In 1961, Dale Mulder opened an A&W franchise location in Lansing, Michigan. Two years later, Mulder introduced the bacon cheeseburger after one of his customers repeatedly asked for bacon to be added to his cheeseburger. And, voilà, the bacon cheeseburger was invented. Dale Murder became president and is now chairman of the board.

A&W’s famous Root Beer Float features the brand’s signature root beer made with real cane sugar and a blend of secret ingredients, topped with creamy vanilla soft serve and served in a frosty mug. Of course, if you just want an A&W root beer, straight up, that’s on the menu, too.

In 1971, A&W Beverages Inc. began supplying bottled A&W products to grocery stores and soon became available nationally. Today, A&W Root Beer is available in most grocery stores.

In the 1970s, A&W had more stores than McDonald’s, with the highest number being 2,400 locations in 1974. It was around this time that franchisee discontent and inconsistencies caused the chain to weaken and branches to close, motivating A&W to move to a modern-style franchise agreement. This new agreement introduced royalty payments and new standards.

A&W Restaurants is older than sliced bread (1919 vs. 1928)

Hello, Third Pounder
To compete with McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, A&W in the 1980s began offering the Third Pounder. The Third beat the Quarter in a taste test and was less expensive. Sadly, customers may have assumed that the Third Pounder had less meat than the Quarter Pounder and refused to buy it.

Meet Rooty the Great Root Bear

In 1973, A&W introduced Rooty the Great Root
Bear as its mascot. Today, there are mugs, stuffy bears,
t-shirts, sweatshirts, Christmas tree ornaments and more,
all bearing the smiling A&W mascot.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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