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Who Owns A&W Root Beer? All about the company

Source: A&W Facebook

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Kathryn Underwood - Author

If you enjoy a float of ice-cold root beer on a summer day, you might be familiar with the A&W brand. A&W Root Beer is a soft drink brand that dates back more than a century. Now the brand is not just a drink that goes well with vanilla ice cream, but a fast food chain with nearly 1,000 locations worldwide. So, who owns A&W Root Beer?

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Source: A&W Restaurants Facebook

An A&W roadside restaurant in 1959.

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What does A&W mean?

Most people have questions about the company, including how did A&W get its name? The answer is that the two co-founders, Roy Allen and Frank Wright, used their last initials to inspire the name of the root beer and the restaurant. “A” stands for “Allen” and “W” stands for “Wright”.

Allen bought Wright in 1924 before obtaining a trademark, selling franchises, and effectively creating one of the first restaurant chains in the U.S. He initially franchised root beer, allowing franchisees to decide what food, if any, to serve.

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Source: A&W Restaurants Facebook

This A&W restaurant opened in 2021 in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

Is A&W Root Beer a Coca-Cola or Pepsi product?

A&W Root Beer is actually one of more than 125 brands owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper. Other beverage brands owned by that parent company include Canada Dry, 7Up, Crush, Snapple, RC and Yoo-hoo. Keurig Dr. Pepper also owns IBC, another root beer brand founded in 1919, and Stewart’s, which makes varieties of root beer and cream soda.

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Keurig Dr. Pepper licenses the A&W brand to A&W Restaurants in the United States. However, A&W Food Services of Canada handles the restaurants and marketing in Canada, with retail products being bottled and distributed by the Coca-Cola Company.

A&W restaurant burgers

Source: A&W Facebook

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A&W Root Beer and restaurants have a long history.

The first international A&W restaurant opened in 1956 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Until 1972, A&W Canadian restaurants were part of the American chain, but have since been separately operated and owned in Canada.

A&W is proud to be the first restaurant to serve a bacon cheeseburger (in 1963). Franchise owner Dale Mulder opened his A&W restaurant in Lansing, Michigan. He put the bacon cheeseburger on the menu after repeated requests from a customer.

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By 1960, the restaurants numbered over 2,000. However, the brand has shrunk slightly, with a current total of approximately 1,000 restaurants worldwide and 600 in the United States. As of 2011, the restaurant business is owned by “a group of domestic and international A&W franchise partners”.

In 2003, restaurants added their 100% Wisconsin white cheddar cheese curds to the menu. Currently, A&W restaurants serve burgers, fries, chicken, hot dogs, other sides, and beverages including A&W Root Beer and Root Beer Floats.

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A&W Root Beer uses The Great Root Bear as its mascot.

A&W mascot

Source: A&W Restaurants Facebook

Rooty, the Great Root Bear, is the mascot of A&W Root Beer. This cheerful representative of the brand was introduced in Canada in 1974 and adopted by US society in 1976. The bear’s prevalence declined in the 1990s, but was revived in 2011.

A&W made the world’s largest root beer float for its 80th anniversary.

In 1999, when A&W Root Beer celebrated its 80th anniversary, the company created “the world’s largest root beer float.” To break the world record, this float used 2,562.5 gallons of A&W root beer.