A&W – A True American Classic!

It All Started With One Roadside Stand

Though many people credit White Castle as being America’s first fast food chain, the recognition actually belongs to A&W Restaurants. Founded in 1919 in Lodi, California; this chain is most known for its root beer floats.

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Roy Allen had created a root beer blend that combined 16 secret spices, herbs, barks, and berries, to create a creamy and thick beverage to honor returning WWI vets. Wanting to share his recipe with those celebrating at a parade, he opened a roadside stand to do so.

History of A&W Restaurants

This American fast-food restaurant is known for its burgers, root beer floats, and of course, the draft root beer. In 1922, Allen partnered with Frank Wright to found their first official location in Sacramento, California. Hence, A&W was named by taking an initial for each of their last names – Allen and Wright.


It didn’t take long for the company to gain notoriety for its “frosty mugs” that were kept inside a freezer until they were filled with A&W for customers. By 1924, Allen had bought out Wright’s share of the business and turned it into a franchise in 1925. He would run the company until 1950 when he retired, but A&W Restaurants experienced a boom in expansion during the ‘50s and ‘60s, with many franchisees signing 20 or 25-year contracts.

By 1960, the company operated 2,000 locations and was beginning to gear up for international expansion. Eventually, A&W Restaurants were found in Okinawa, the Philippines, Malaysia, Malaya, and Singapore. In 1961, Dale Mulder opened a franchise in Lansing, Michigan, and is credited with inventing the bacon cheeseburger.

A&W Logo

Through the years, the company has been owned by several individuals and companies, including Yum! Brands, which sold it to the current owner, A Great American Brand, LLC., in 2011.

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A&W Restaurants have featured several mascots over the years, such as Chubby Chicken, who appeared on all Chubby burgers in the early 1960s.

A&W Chubby chicken

Then, in 1963, the company introduced four new hamburger choices and a corresponding character to match: Mama Burger, Papa Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger. Each of these sandwiches was sold in wrappers featuring the corresponding character.

A&W Float

And then there was Rooty, the Great American Root Beer that first appeared in 1974 in Canada. It was A&W’s response to Ronald McDonald and eventually appeared in America in 1976. Though Rooty was almost canceled before starting, he proved to be a popular success. He would remain the face of A&W’s advertising throughout the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. However, by the latter portion of the ‘90s, he had nearly disappeared. That is until he resurfaced in 2011 under new management. In 2013, Rooty became the first ever mascot to have an official LinkedIn profile, which was quickly removed because the authorities at LinkedIn said he was not a “real” person.

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A&W Restaurants Today

Today, A&W Restaurants operates nearly 1,000 locations within the U.S. and Southeast Asia. In 2019, the company celebrated its centennial by creating a book of photos and memories shared by fans and former employees. This is hailed as an amazing feat for any restaurant because A&W survived the Great Depression, recessions, wars, competition, sugar shortages, and 11 ownership changes. And it doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere anytime soon. Executives recently said that the company is at its strongest point in decades due to the fact they went back to their roots – serving delicious A&W root beer in frosty mugs!

Video: A&W Retro 60s Jingle Commercial

To find an existing A&W Restaurant, click the frosty mugs below:

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49 responses to “A&W – A True American Classic!”

  1. Rick Avatar

    Frosty mug of root beer and coney dog,,,that was a great combination

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar
  2. Ted Avatar

    I used to work at A&W root beer Restaurant back in the 70s I used to make the root beer floats!!!

    1. Christopher Denison Avatar
      Christopher Denison

      I worked at the A&W in Rohnert Park California in 1973. Started out as the bun burner then got promoted to Cook and Root Beer maker!
      Great days!
      Thanks Bob Llewellyn for that wonderful year!

  3. Wendy Foley Avatar
    Wendy Foley

    We STILL have an A & W in Wilmington, New York. They’re a seasonal business but they have FANTASTIC BURGERS AND FRIES!! We both had a papa burger with fries recently. They have indoor and outdoor seating. Wonderful food.

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      That’s great. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Sandi Avatar

      We have one too. In Johnston Rhode island. Seasonal too.

      1. Ryan Avatar

        Here in Boulder City there’s a A&W restaurant. It’s at least 60 years old.

  4. Ron Starnes Avatar
    Ron Starnes

    Too bad theyre not in Miami

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      Sorry, the closest one to you in is Tampa

  5. dick zaccardi Avatar
    dick zaccardi

    You forgot Pine City, MN

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      We didn’t forget. It’s on the list of locations on their website

      1. Tomi Jo Doreo Avatar
        Tomi Jo Doreo

        They have one in Reno Nevada and I actually go there every time I visit.. I worked at one when I was 16 in Rio Vista California.. they had the Papa Burger, Mama Burger and teen burger and baby burger.. lol.. My favorite was the Bacon burger with the best fries and a Root beer.. we actually sold submarine sandwiches and I’m telling you they were delicious.. I don’t know what was so different about them they were just good…. I always make their sauce anr and I remembered a few things that make my burgers good for my family..

  6. Dan Avatar

    There was an A&W on Cape Cod up until this year. Went out for vacation in August and it was gone. So sad. Looked forward to it every year.

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      Cape Cod is wonderful!

  7. Jim Ouimet Avatar
    Jim Ouimet

    Still have one in Simcoe , Ontario. Best burgers around.

  8. Robert Edward Frazier Avatar
    Robert Edward Frazier

    There is a great one in Boonville, MO. I went there as a teenager and now at 80 years old, I can still go to the same place.

  9. Bubby Avatar

    My uncle had one in the 60s In Lexington, S.Carolina. Built a putt putt golf next door and it was great !!

  10. DAVID J. VOGEL Avatar


    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      You would need to contact A&W directly for that info. https://awrestaurants.com/contact

  11. Terry Haviland Avatar
    Terry Haviland

    Wish they would bring back the Root Beer Floats, here in Barrie Ontario. The new Iced Root Beer is not even close!

  12. joey rubel Avatar
    joey rubel

    Grew up with the A&W in Sanford and DeLand Florida! Miss them as they are gone now…

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      There is one in Kissimmee 🙂

  13. John Avatar

    A&W needs to come out with a drive-in prototype similar to Sonic and go head-to-head and become the second national drive-in brand. Sonic does not have any national competition.

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar
  14. William Simmons Avatar
    William Simmons

    Buy a root beer mug from ads on E-Bay, put it in your freezer. Buy a carton of good vanilla ice cream. Buy a six pack of A & W Root Beer. Get a long spoon. Get a paper straw and when the desire arises, creat your future memories.

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      Good idea 💡

  15. Bruce D Brown Avatar
    Bruce D Brown

    Glass gallon of root beer and the best chicken ever.

  16. Janeen Long Avatar
    Janeen Long

    I wish there was one near Princeton Minnesota

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      Their locations in MN are as follows:

      Detroit Lakes
      Howard Lake
      Inver Grove Heights
      Mountain Lake
      New London
      Park Rapids
      Pine City
      Saint Charles
      Spring Valley
      Thief River Falls

  17. Ronfkamel Avatar

    My Gandfather had three A&W Ma Vt Nh and he them built

  18. David bottomley Avatar
    David bottomley

    The one in new Bedford Massachusetts was on the avenue was a awesome place to go frosty rootbeer the trays on your window now its a car wash place

  19. […] among the fast food industry, many baby boomers are left with great memories of their favorite hangout. Here are some “forever” memories of this popular […]

  20. Bernard Wilson Avatar
    Bernard Wilson

    If they were founded in Lodi kn 1919, then they weren’t founded to honor “returning WWII vets.” They would have been returning WWI vets.

    1. Kris Quaffinglager Avatar
      Kris Quaffinglager

      Read the beginning of the article again. 2nd paragraph says “returning WWI vets.

  21. Charma Avatar

    We still have one in Russell KS. My husband goes there all the time.

  22. […] burger, as this was Richard’s nickname. The BB craze that followed prompted Bob to change the name of his stand from Bob’s Pantry to Bob’s Big Boy. He then introduced the infamous […]

  23. dmsdenali Avatar

    I managed an A&W in Santa Clara, Ca. Put myself thru college. Great food, great people

  24. […] many of it’s restaurants remained in operation until the early 1990s. Eventually, the chain was bought by Carl’s […]

  25. jcbernier Avatar

    How about putting back many of the ones that have disappeared; notably (in my case) East Brooklyn, CT!)

  26. Bettyann letts Avatar
    Bettyann letts

    I love A&W the only thing I miss and wish they would bring back is where you can drive in and order your food and have it brought to your car

  27. Shirley Grenig Avatar

    Have eaten at A&W #1 in Lodi, CA many times. Modesto, CA still has one of the original restaurant styles, complete with car club in the summertime.

  28. Linda Mitchell Avatar
    Linda Mitchell

    How many are left? Love checking them out when I can get theren❤

    1. Eric James Hartman Avatar

      Over 1,000 stores still open

  29. Rob Avatar

    Why did they ruin the root beer by putting CO2 into it? I loved the old fashioned root beer without the fizz.

  30. Doug Barnes Avatar
    Doug Barnes

    Every year we vacation in Lake George New York and there is a A&W right outside the campground . We go there many times while there, while attending the Adirondacks Car Show in September .

  31. Steve Lemme Avatar
    Steve Lemme

    We have an A&W in Seligman, AZ right on Historic Route 66. Stop by and get your kicks on Route 66

  32. Philippe Plouchart Avatar
    Philippe Plouchart

    Our A&W in Sacramento is still open, but I am disappointed with the bland Papa Burger. Good fries, very good root beer, served in waxed cups, not served in frosty mugs. What happened?

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