How A&W Restaurants help boost small communities

Far-reaching supplier makes small towns more accessible for our burger franchise, allowing franchisees to succeed while reinvesting in their hometowns

In late September 2017 in Bemidji, MN, the town of about 14,500 celebrated the opening of a new A&W restaurant with free Root Beer Floats. A&W was a thriving business in the Minnesota town in the 1950s and 1960s, but had been gone for many years. Its return was welcomed with open arms by local fans.

The Bemidji location is one of 18 new A&W Restaurants opened in 2017, with several more in development. Many of our 625+ U.S. locations are in smaller communities, where franchise buyers can take advantage of lower real estate prices and fewer competing brands.

“Current and new franchisees are expressing their confidence in the A&W brand by signing development agreements, opening restaurants across the country and participating in our system remodeling program,” says Kevin Bazner, President and CEO. “It is gratifying that many of our new restaurants are being opened by current franchise partners.”

Crew members at the new A&W Restaurant in Bemidji, MN, stand behind the counter and smile as they prepare for the grand opening of the store.

Whether you’re seeking a sit-down eatery for your hometown or looking for a smart, scalable investment to diversify your portfolio, A&W is a great franchise for small towns.

A small-town franchise with big-brand resources

Bemidji was a perfect opportunity for a new location, not only because of its history with A&W Restaurants but because the town is situated at the junction of two major highways and a little over an hour away from Grand Rapids, MI. We anticipate our new franchise will not only create loyal brand fans locally, it will also capture outdoorsmen and road-trippers looking for something more comforting than a drive-thru as they pass by on the highway.

A&W is positioned to help franchisees succeed thanks to our vendor relationship with Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions. Because they have existing relationships with Yum! Brands, we can leverage that reach and buying power for A&W locations in even the most out-of-the-way places.

How A&W gives back

Small towns are the type of community where A&W excels. Jim Brajdic owns units in several small towns in the Fox Valley area near Appleton, WI, and one reason his restaurants thrive is because they all give back to their communities.

“There are a lot of people who come into our restaurants because of what we do and what we represent,” says Brajdic, who is also a member of the National A&W Franchisee Association board, which co-owns the A&W brand and collaborates on all decisions. “We get involved with the Cancer Society Walk, the Salvation Army. We donate grocery bags full of food to be delivered to the needy in our community.”

When schools or non-profit organizations are seeking help with fundraisers, they often turn to Brajdic, whose restaurants might, for example, donate sales from Root Beer Floats. A small-town franchise is more likely to plug into the interconnectedness of a tight-knit community. “We won an award from United Way for Small Business of the Year,” Brajdic noted.

Two Root Beer Floats are pictured in frosty mugs with A&W logos.

A&W Restaurants are known for our signature Root Beer Floats, made from Root Beer mixed fresh daily in every restaurant and served in frosty mugs.

In a recent interview with Franchise Times magazine, which describes A&W as “the Norman Rockwell of American QSR,” Bazner noted the advantages of lower real estate costs and said A&W’s “sweet spot” is communities with populations between 5,000 and 25,000 that are located near major highways.

“This allows us to capitalize on major traffic patterns, but doesn’t marry us to being downtown,” Bazner told the magazine.

He also pointed out the labor pool is easier to access in small communities, and it’s easier to make connections with community partnerships, local media and civic organizations.

Learn more

If you’d like to discover more about why A&W is such a great franchise for small towns, please explore our research pages. To start a conversation, just fill out the short, no-obligation form on this page and someone from our Franchise Development team will be in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!

Why A&W has higher average ticket prices

We beat big burger franchises when it comes to average ticket prices. Why? Great burgers and loyal brand fans who drive repeat business.

A Root Beer Float in an A&W-branded mug is pictured on a tray with some fries and a bacon cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce and onion. A jukebox can be seen in the background.

Those frosty mugs of Root Beer, those crispy fries and those unbeatable cheeseburgers. A&W customers know they can count on the same great taste every time, and the same friendly service, too.

The big burger franchises may have A&W beat when it comes to the number of locations, but they’ve got nothing on us when it comes to loyal fans. How do we know? Because our average ticket price is higher than theirs but our customers keep coming back for more. We’ve experienced an average 33% increase in same-store sales since 2011.

A&W has over 625 locations nationwide and we are continuing to grow our brand strategically. We know that doesn’t come close to the big burger brands with tens of thousands of locations, but we’re fine with that. We are focused on growing at a pace that allows us to stay true to our core mission and the values that our fans have loved since we first introduced our creamy Root Beer at a roadside California stand 99 years ago.

How our average prices compare

 A&WMcDonald'sBurger KingWendy's
Average ticket price$9.22$4.72$4.99$5.18

Source: Business Insider

How we inspire customer loyalty

Part of the challenge of being a smaller burger franchise is maintaining consistent customer experiences at every location. Without the efficiencies afforded by a larger chain with thousands of locations, smaller chains are sometimes stymied by issues like supply and distribution. That affects both the customer experience and, ultimately, franchisee returns.

But A&W is partnered with Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions, which happens to be the supplier-distributor for the massive KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands. That gives our smaller franchise much broader reach and greater cost efficiencies than we’d be able to achieve on our own. And it helps us maintain the same great food quality and experience for A&W customers, no matter where they are.

A&W is more than just burgers

If you’ve been looking for an investment that feels more like a franchise family and less like a mega-corporation, A&W is one of the best franchises to open. We are known for our creamy Root Beer, made fresh in stores every day, as well as our hand-breaded chicken tenders, cheese curds and burgers and dogs. With nearly a century in business, there’s no question about why our customers keep coming back.

A double bacon cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise is lit dramatically against a dark background.

There’s no mystery behind our greatness: We execute well, we execute consistently and we listen to our franchisees. We have to. They own our brand.

What’s really exciting to an investor, however, is our accessible leadership and our steadily increasing sales. Our brand is franchisee-owned, so your input will be considered on every decision we make as a company. You don’t just get a seat at the table; you own the table.

Learn more about our burger franchise

You can discover more about our franchise offering by filling out the form on this page. You can also continue to explore our research pages to learn more about the A&W restaurant franchise opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you!