Vintage artwork of two burgers on a scale. The burger on the left scale is flying into the air and the burger in the right is falling lower. The burger on the right is listed as

The Truth About A&W's Third-Pound Burger and the Major Math Mix-Up

By now you've probably heard the story: once upon a time, A&W Restaurants released a third-pound burger that failed to catch on thanks to a misunderstanding of fractions. Just how accurate is this tale of math mistakes and fraction flubs? Read on for the scoop.

In the 1980s, then-owner A. Alfred Taubman launched the "Third is the Word" campaign to promote A&W's new third-pound burgers and compete with another brand's smaller quarter-pound burger.

Taubman recounted this example in his book, Threshold Resistance"We were aggressively marketing a one-third-pound hamburger for the same price...but despite our best efforts, including first-rate TV and radio promotional spots, they just weren't selling."

Confused why A&W's burgers weren't able to compete even though the burgers were priced the same as their competitors, Taubuman brought in a market research firm. 

The firm eventually conducted a focus group to discover the truth: participants were concerned about the price of the burger. "Why should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat?" they asked. 

It turns out the majority of participants incorrectly believed one-third of a pound was actually smaller than a quarter of a pound. 

Despite the confusion, Taubman took an important lesson from the experience: "Sometimes the messages we send to our customers through marketing and sales information are not as clear and compelling as we think they are." 

Craving one of our tasty third-pound burgers? Click here to find an A&W near you.

Vintage black and white ad from the 1980s. Text at the top of the ad reads "Third is the Word" with photo of a Burger and mug of A&W Root Beer below the text.