LEXINGTON, Ky. – A&W Restaurants has turned a profitable corner, with expanding locations in its sight, QSR Magazine reports. The restaurant separated from YUM! Brands five years ago when a group of franchisees bought the brand and installed Kevin Bazner, president of A&W prior to the YUM! Acquisition, back as president and CEO.
Now the chain is starting a new initiative to expand its franchises. Last year, A&W opened 15 new U.S. restaurants plus 21 international locations. In 2017, America’s oldest restaurant chain will add 20 U.S. stores and 25 international restaurants. Sales at stand-alone units rose more than 28% over the past five years, higher than the overall restaurant industry. Co-branded restaurants had sales jump 20% in that same time period.
“From day one, our goal was to grow profitable sales, and thanks to our franchise partners’ commitment, perseverance and passion, we have accomplished that,” Bazner said. “Today, our franchisees are more profitable than ever before, which sets the stage for a new phase of growth.”
The program to add franchise units has a new franchising website, a public relations firm, more advertising and a larger presence at trade shows. The brand has gasoline stations and convenience stores as a key target area for growth. Currently, A&W restaurants number 625 in the United States with around 375 co-branded with Long John Silver’s or KFC. Of those, nearly 90 are housed in convenience stores or gasoline stations.
“Being franchisee-owned, our operators have much more input than with most brands, and we also give them far more flexibility to tailor their restaurants to their markets,” Bazner said. “And unlike many chains that are now owned by equity groups, our owners have no exit strategy, allowing us to continue to make long-term decisions and investments.”