What makes our restaurant franchise different?
Franchisees collaborate with our leadership on all decisions, and everyone from the CEO down spends time working in our restaurants.
Four times a year, every employee at the A&W Restaurant Support Center has to tie on an apron, swap their dress shoes for something slip-resistant and pull a shift in one of our restaurants. We know that as a franchisee-owned brand, it’s vital for everyone in our organization to understand what it’s like to work day-to-day in an A&W.
Being owned by our franchisees means all our decisions are collaborative, channeled through the National A&W Franchisees Association (NAWFA) Board and in cooperation with our Executive Leadership Team. This partnership forms the backbone of our operations-focused organization.
A lot of franchisors talk about how important their franchisees are, establishing advisory councils and speaking to the necessity of letting their franchisees weigh in. At A&W, it’s not just lip service. Everyone on our corporate team earns bonuses based not on the success of the franchisor, but on profitable same-store sales growth of franchisees.
“There’s not a marketing strategy that’s adopted, there is not an operational change that is made, there is not a standards change that is implemented, without full collaboration with our franchise association,” says Kevin Bazner, President and CEO.
“Our shareholders are our franchise partners, and they have a long-term strategy for the business.” – Kevin Bazner
A&W embraces operations-focused culture
As a stakeholder in the franchisor, our franchise association is far more than an advisory panel. NAWFA is focused on cultivating a culture of operational excellence, which includes everything from maintaining high standards for food quality to making sure every member of our leadership team knows their way around a kitchen. Decisions aren’t based solely on top-line revenue that generates royalty streams, they’re based on bottom-line results at individual stores.
“Our shareholders are our franchise partners,” says Bazner, “and they have a long-term strategy for the business. Our mission is to protect their investment for the long haul. What that means is that we run this business without an exit strategy. We’re always thinking about what our decisions will mean for this business five and 10 and 20 years from now, not what it’s going to look like for the next quarter.”
The switch to franchisee ownership in 2011 has driven strong results. A&W has experienced a nearly 30% surge in same-store sales on average since the change in ownership. We’ve maintained a relationship with our food and equipment supplier Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions (RSCS), which is key to helping our franchisees maximize their profit margins.
The strength of our restaurant supply co-op
With RSCS, we can reach every one of our A&W restaurant franchises in the country, no matter how out of the way they are, and maintain the consistency of our brand experience across the board. That’s because RSCS also serves some of the largest franchise brands in the nation, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
“Since we’re involved in that same purchasing co-op with Yum! Brands we have the benefit of sharing the purchasing power and the pricing of the largest food service organization in the industry,” Bazner says. “And that’s very powerful.”
A supplier with such vast buying power gives A&W franchisees access to food, paper and equipment at very competitive prices.
“I think it’s very important to remember that the relationship we have with RSCS is probably one of the more unique things that we have going for us,” says franchise partner Tom Thompson of Dubuque, IA. “I don’t know how many other small brands can say that they’re associated with a food-purchasing co-op with equipment-purchasing benefits as well. That’s a tremendous advantage for A&W.”
Our restaurants span generations
Don Unruh bought into the A&W brand in 2016, and already he’s bringing his grown son Schuyler into the business. Dale Mulder, the former president of A&W, current Chairman of A&W Restaurants, Inc., and a franchisee since 1961, is now semi-retired but still acts as a mentor to the four of his five children who run his enterprise. Thanks to our brand’s longevity and corporate culture, it’s not unusual to see second- and third-generation ownership.
“Fortunately, I say now at my age, our kids went off to college, they did some other things, and they have migrated back to the business,” Mulder says. “They find that the challenges and the rewards are worth being back in the family business, the A&W business.”
Whether through single locations or multi-unit ownership, A&W offers franchise buyers a chance to build a lasting legacy for their families as well as a chance to build equity and sell off the business at some point, depending on their business goals.
“We’re very proud of the fact that since 2011, the average A&W franchise partner has seen about a 30% sales increase,” says Paul Martino, COO. “That’s as important to the guy who’s running a single restaurant in Iowa, as it is to the guy who’s running 10 restaurants in Michigan.”
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