How A&W Floated Through the Pandemic Without Laying Off a Single Employee

December 23, 2021
Barbara Castiglia


As arguably the oldest franchise brand, A&W is known for its classic root beer floats, but many aren’t aware of the many other options they offer at their many franchised stores.

John Palumbo, senior director of franchise development at A&W, spoke with Host Barbara Castiglia about the history and future of the brand, including his favorite menu items.

Starting as a root beer stand, the global company is now completely owned by its franchise partners. The advantage of being franchise-owned is the passion and drive the franchisees bring to the brand.

“We want folks that have a connection to this brand or some kind of emotional connection to the A&W brand,” Palumbo explained.

It’s not required to have much food service industry knowledge, but those ready to learn and grow through an extensive corporate support team will enjoy a long and successful business with a brand that truly cares about its stores and employees.

For instance, during the pandemic, A&W didn’t lay off a single employee and sent back all advertising payments paid by the franchisees so they could use that toward making payroll.

“To me, that spoke to the integrity of this brand… it’s always: ‘Do the right thing.’ ‘What can we do to help our franchisees today?’ ‘What makes sense?’” said Palumbo.

That type of company culture clearly seeps into the individual locations that comprise A&W, evidenced by their loyal restaurant-goers, or as they call ‘fans,’ who were eager to dine in once restrictions lifted.

“There’s research that show people do gravitate toward things they know and love and have a connection with, and we’re one of that.”

Looking to the future, Palumbo predicts more store locations will expand into the southwest and southeast this year, especially Las Vegas and the Carolinas.

Tune in to The Main Course to hear Palumbo’s favorite menu item or head over to A&W’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to engage with fellow fans and participate in challenges, promotions, awards and more.

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