Five years out of its breakaway from Yum Brands ownership, A&W Restaurants is proclaiming its success as a standalone brand. Since being sold from YUM! Brands in 2011, the brand has experienced non-stop, year-over-year same-store sales and profit gains, as well as the opening of more than 40 new U.S. units, including 15 in gas and convenience stores, according to a company press release.
That's quite a tale of industry re-emergence, particularly since the brand opened in 1919 in Lodi, California. In the early part of this century, the chain was acquired by Yum and in nine year's time was almost completely out of steam with sales sputtering and the overall system bleeding off units, according to the release. That's when a group of franchisees formed under the title of, "A Great American Brand" to buy the brand, putting its former president prior to the Yum acquisition, Kevin Bazner, back at the helm as CEO.
"A&W’s future was very much in question," Bazner said. "If not for the franchise partners' investment, hard work and passion, A&W would not be where it is today. … We acquired a troubled brand with a franchise community that was very apathetic, having been neglected for many years. ...Our initial goal was to grow profitable sales, one restaurant at a time, and we’ve accomplished that."
Despite the slackening of sales across parts of the broader restaurant industry, A&W is heading into 2017 as nearly a centenarian brand but is thriving. According to a news release, since 2012 ,the brand can report:
- Same-store-sales up nearly 24 percent.
- System-wide sales and profit growth every quarter.
- 41 new U.S. restaurants opened, with 20 more planned for 2017.
- 23 new products introduced.
- New versatile restaurant prototype and kitchen design that's adaptable to location site.
The brand has 310 international sites and 625 national sites with about 375 of the U.S. locations co-branded with KFC or Long John Silver’s. The remaining are stand-alone A&W units including 87 gas and convenience store locations. With the brand stabilized, A&W is turning to adding new locations, with a new franchise sales initiative launching in early 2017. It will include a focus on gas and convenience stores.
"A&W has tremendous brand recognition. Everywhere I go people share stories and memories," Bazner said. "That affection — combined with our performance the last five years — is driving great interest among both current and prospective franchisees."