A&W Restaurants’ Growth Trajectory

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 19, 2017) A&W Restaurants, Inc., a Lexington-based restaurant group with nearly 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, looks to double down on restaurant growth in 2018 heading into its 100th Anniversary in 2019.  A&W recently celebrated the 6th Anniversary of their divestiture from Yum! Brands by announcing the brand’s core business is up nearly 30% over this timespan, and recent investments in new unit development look to increase those numbers in the foreseeable future.  The brand has seen many successful product launches since 2011, including the launch of Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders in 2013, which stemmed from the major restaurant industry trend towards boneless chicken.  In addition to new product launches centered on quality positioning, A&W has focused on a return to Local Store Marketing and developing tools for restaurant operators to advertise in their own communities.  And as of May 2017, one-hundred percent of all A&W restaurants now make their signature Root Beer fresh in each of their restaurants, with the same recipe that made the brand famous.
Photo of Kevin Bazner, president and CEO of A&W Restaurants, Inc.One of A&W’s major growth initiatives over the last few years has been a return to actively franchising the brand and building new units, something that was not emphasized during the first few years as a new company.  “For the first few years after leaving Yum! Brands, our focus was on strengthening the existing system.  We were not focused on building new restaurants,” Kevin Bazner, president and CEO explains. “We started getting requests to build from our franchisees in 2014 and in 2015 began actively franchising again.  Our goal this year was to build 15 new restaurants, and we hit that mark.  Next year we are shooting for 20.”  Bazner says A&W is going into markets where there used to be A&Ws, but they may have long closed down.  “The exciting part of this turnaround is being able to go back and build in smaller communities where there are so many fond memories of A&W.  We are definitely seeing increased demand to build in small-town America.”
When asked if being based in Lexington has impacted A&W’s overall business objectives and its team of approximately 30 Lexington-based employees, Bazner confirmed yes.  “The talent in central Kentucky is outstanding, and therefore we have not had to recruit outside of the region.  The cost of living is low, we are able to pay very competitive rates, and the strong arts and restaurant culture of Lexington continues to be a bonus for all those who live here.”  Bazner says the four company-owned restaurants in the Lexington market continue to do well, and A&W is looking at ways to expand the learnings that have come from their corporate stores into the other restaurants around the country.  “We are thankful to the Lexington community for allowing us to grow in the community.  We’ve been a quiet neighbor but you’ll be seeing much more of us in the coming years.”