A&W Root Beer is a root beer brand primarily available in the United States and Canada, started in 1919 by Roy W. Allen. In 1922, Allen partnered with Frank Wright. They combined their initials to create the brand "A&W" and inspired a restaurant chain, founded in 1922. A&W root beer drinks sold for five cents.
Outside Canada, the rights to the A&W brand are owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which in turn licenses the brand to the similarly named U.S.-based restaurant chain; A&W products are distributed via various U.S. bottlers. A&W Food Services of Canada, which is independent of both DPSG and the U.S. chain, is responsible for the restaurants and the marketing of root beer products in that country, with retail products bottled and distributed by The Coca-Cola Company. The U.S. variant is also sold as an import drink in Southeast Asia and Italy (where A&W has restaurants), as well as Australia, the United Kingdom, and Chile, among other countries.
On June 20, 1919, Roy W. Allen opened a roadside root beer stand in Lodi, California, using a formula he purchased from a pharmacist. He soon opened stands in Stockton, California, and five stands in nearby Sacramento, home of the country’s first drive-in featuring "tray-boys" for curbside service. In 1920, Allen became partners with Frank Wright and the two combined their initials and called their product A&W Root Beer. A mistaken notion is that the initials were derived from Alice and Willard Marriott. This mistake arose owing to Marriott's first business, an A&W franchise
In 1924, Allen bought Wright's share, obtained a trademark, and began selling restaurant franchises. A&W was one of the first franchised restaurant chains in the United States. Franchise owners could use the A&W name and logo and purchased concentrated root beer syrup from Allen. By 1933, there were more than 170 A&W franchised outlets. There was no common menu, architecture, or procedures shared by the franchisees and some chose to sell food with the root beer.
Mugs of A&W root beer at a Canadian A&W restaurant
Franchises struggled with labor shortages and sugar rationing during World War II, but following the war, the number of A&W outlets tripled as GI loans paved the way for private enterprise. Driven by the popularity of the automobile and the new mobile society, more than 450 A&W Root Beer stands were operating by 1950. In that same year, Allen retired and sold the business to Nebraskan Gene Hurtz, who formed the A&W Root Beer Company. The first A&W Root Beer outlet in Canada opened in 1956.
By 1960, the number of A&W restaurants swelled to more than 2,000. In 1963, the A&W Root Beer Company was sold to the J. Hungerford Smith Company, which had produced Allen’s concentrate since 1921. In the same year, the first overseas A&W restaurant opened its doors in Guam.
In 1963, the company was sold to the United Fruit Company, then renamed the United Brands Company. In 1971, United Brands formed a wholly owned subsidiary, A&W Distributing Co., for the purpose of making A&W Root Beer available in bottles on the grocery shelf. After a test run in Arizona and California, the products were distributed nationally in the United States, along with sugar-free, low-sodium, and caffeine-free versions. In 1974, A&W introduced "The Great Root Bear," a mascot that served as a goodwill ambassador for the brand.
In the late 1970s, A&W Restaurants was formed to manage restaurant franchising. It was bought in 1982 by A. Alfred Taubman.
In 1986, A&W Cream Soda and A&W Diet Cream Soda were introduced and distributed nationally, followed in 1987 by the reformulation of sugar-free A&W as Diet A&W.
In October 1993, A&W Beverages was folded into Cadbury Beverages. That company would spin off its US beverages business as Dr Pepper Snapple Group in 2008.
In March 2005, A&W began to appear in the Vintage Bottle, a 20-ounce bottle with graphics reminiscent of an old fashioned root beer barrel. The brand’s current tagline is, “Classic American Refreshment Since 1919.”
The Great Root Bear
Rooty, the Great Root Bear
The Great Root Bear, also called Rooty, is the mascot for A&W Root Beer. It was first used in 1974 by Canada's A&W, and was later adopted by the American chain. In a long-running television advertising campaign for the Canadian A&W chain, his theme was a tuba-driven jingle entitled "Ba-Dum, Ba-Dum" and released as a single by Attic Records in Canada, credited to "Major Ursus", a play on the constellation name Ursa Major, which means "great bear". Some may compare his appearance to Yogi Bear. Some may not. In the late 1990s, the Great Root Bear's role as mascot was reduced for the restaurant chain, ultimately replaced by "The Burger Family", although it still appeared in various capacities for the restaurants and on A&W Root Beer cases in Canada. In late 2011, the new ownership of A&W began using the mascot again, particularly in A&W's online presence.
A&W Restaurants, Inc., is a chain of fast-food restaurants distinguished by its draft root beer and root beer floats. A&W started opening franchises in California in 1923. The company name was taken from the surname initials of partners Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright. The company became famous in the United States for its "frosty mugs", where the mug would be kept in the freezer prior to being filled with root beer and served to the customer.
Today, it has franchise locations throughout much of the world, serving a typical fast-food menu of hamburgers and French fries, as well as hot dogs. A number of its outlets are drive-in restaurants with carhops. Previously owned by Yum! Brands, the chain was sold to a consortium of A&W franchisees, through A Great American Brand, LLC, in December 2011.
A&W restaurants in Canada have been part of a separate and unaffiliated chain since 1972.
A&W began in June 1919, at 13 Pine Street in Lodi, California, when Roy W. Allen opened his first root beer stand. Two years later, Allen began franchising the drink, arguably the first successful food-franchising operation. His profits came from a small franchise fee and sales. The following year, Allen partnered with Frank Wright to help Wright with the root beer business he had started that year. They branded their product A&W Root Beer.
In 1923, they opened their first drive-in restaurant, in Sacramento, California, creating the nation's first system of franchise roadside restaurants. The chain went international in 1956, when A&W opened in Winnipeg and Montreal, Canada. By 1960, A&W had 2,000 retail stores. A&W Canada has been separately owned and operated from the American company since 1972.
In 1963, the chain opened its first store on Okinawa. Also that year, the first bacon cheeseburger from a chain restaurant was served at one of the A&W locations. In the following years, the chain branched into other foreign markets, including the Philippines and Malaysia.
In 1971, a beverage division began, supplying bottled A&W products to grocery stores. The soft drinks sold under A&W are root beer and cream soda (both original and diet), made by Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc.
In the 1970s, A&W had more stores than McDonald's. Oshkosh, Wisconsin franchise manager Jim Brajdic said: "Problems back then, including a lawsuit, franchisee discontent and inconsistencies in the operation, caused the chain to flounder and branches to close."
In 1982, A. Alfred Taubman purchased A&W. In 1989, A&W made an agreement with Minnesota-based Carousel Snack Bars to convert that chain's 200 stores (mostly kiosks in shopping malls) to A&W Hot Dogs & More. Some A&W Hot Dogs & More are still operating. In the late 2000s, A&W added franchises with a nostalgic look and modern technology. They have a carhop design with drive-thrus and some have picnic tables.
In 1995, Taubman sold A&W to Sidney Feltenstein. A&W merged with Long John Silver's to form Yorkshire Global Restaurants based in Lexington, Kentucky. Yorkshire in 2000 agreed to test multibranded locations with Tricon Global Restaurants. By March 2002, the Yorkshire-Tricon multibranding test consisted of 83 KFC/A&Ws, six KFC/Long John Silver's and three Taco Bell/Long John Silver's and was considered successful by the companies.
Yum Brands subsidiary
In March 2002, Tricon Global announced the acquisition of Yorkshire and name change to YUM Brands.
A&W opened its first outlet in Bangladesh on 15 December 2010. The food served is 100% halal and is very popular with the local youth population, with root beer being the driving force of the large number of sales. A&W Bangladesh serves an "All you can eat offer" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and "Boishakhi Bonanza" during the Bengali new year.
Before 2011, A&W (besides Canada), was a Yum! Brands, Inc. company. Most A&W stores that opened in the U.S. in recent years were co-branded with another of Yum!'s chains—Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or Kentucky Fried Chicken.