Vintage A&W Photograph

It All Started with A Roadside Stand: The 'Roots' of A&W Restaurants

Take a trip down memory lane with this timeline of key moments in A&W Restaurants history. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two. 

1919 - IT ALL STARTED WITH A ROADSIDE STAND…

Roy W. Allen opened his first Root Beer stand in Lodi, California on June 20th. It was a hot night that coincided with a city-wide party celebrating the homecoming of local World War I heroes.

1922 – SO THAT’S WHAT A&W STANDS FOR

A&W founders Roy Allen and Frank Wright

Allen partnered with former Lodi employee Frank Wright. They leased their first two Root Beer stands to other operators so they could expand into the larger city of Sacramento. This was around the same time the partners coined the new name A&W®, “A” for Allen & “W” for Wright.

1925 – ADDING TO THE FAMILY

Allen began to sell franchises to others, thus establishing the first franchise restaurant chain in America.

1950 – HERE WE GROW AGAIN

Thanks to the postwar boom & prevalence of G.I. loans, there was a flurry of new development & nearly 450 operating A&Ws. Allen sold the entire operation to the A&W Root Beer Co., a California company.

1956 - GOING INTERNATIONAL

A&W went international opening its first restaurant in Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1956. A&W restaurants in Canada were initially part of the American A&W restaurant chain until they were sold in 1972 and since then, have been owned and operated in Canada independently and separately from A&W operations in the United States.

1963 - BACON, MEET BURGER

Original Bacon Cheeseburger on one side, inventor Dale Mulder on right side

A&W expanded to the Philippines, Malaysia, & Okinawa, Japan. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Original Bacon Cheeseburger was born.

1969 – FIFTY AND FABULOUS

A&W Restaurants' 50th Anniversary Logo

A&W celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

1971 – CAN (AND BOTTLE) YOU DIG IT?

A&W Root Beer became available in bottles & cans.

1974 – UNBEARABLY CUTE

Vintage photo of Rooty the Great Root Bear in black and white

Rooty the Great Root Bear™ was born.

1999 – THAT’S A LOT OF ROOT BEER FLOATS

World's Largest Root Beer Float

In conjunction with A&W’s 80th Anniversary, the world’s largest Root Beer Float was created. 2,562.5 gallons of Root Beer were used to break the world record.

2003 – CHEESY GOOD

100% Real Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds were introduced.

2011 – A GREAT AMERICAN BRAND

Root Beer Float in an A&W 2017 Collector's Mug

A&W was purchased by a group of domestic & international A&W Franchise Partners.

2017 & Beyond – THE FUTURE IS NOW

There are approximately 1,000 restaurants (& counting) in the United Stated & Southeast Asia. An estimated 46 new restaurant openings are planned for 2018 between the U.S. & International markets.