A&W launches new restaurant model
TORONTO — A&W has launched a new restaurant model as well as a growth plan aimed at recruiting 200 new franchisees by 2020 to the quick service chain.
A&W currently has more than 860 locations throughout Canada and is the second largest quick service chain in the nation. With an established base of restaurants in Western Canada, the company will look to recruit its new franchise owners in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
“We’ve grown organically over the years. We’ve been opening 30 or more restaurants in the last couple of years and I think that’s industry leading in terms of new restaurant locations,” said Susan Senecal, A&W’s president and COO. “This takes it to a new level.”
RELATED: Newsmaker of the Year: Susan Senecal
Yanick Morin, A&W’s national director of franchise development, explained an assessment of the Canadian market found the restaurant company could successfully open another 300 restaurants nationwide.
“It’s changing everything for us. It will push our limits,” Morin said. “We’re a Canadian company — international companies can do this, it’s a little portion in their overall portfolio — for us, this is all we have: Canada. It’s pushing boundaries everywhere.”
Toronto and Montreal are the main targets for growth. Overall, A&W expects to open 100 urban locations, 100 freestanding restaurants and 100 locations in small towns.
“We have some areas where we already have real estate and are looking for franchisees,” Morin said.
To encourage growth in smaller towns, A&W is looking to its drive-thru model restaurant, which is geared towards proximity to convenience stores or gas stations.
“That’s really directed at small towns where initial sales volume might be a little lower until the town grows into itself and its A&W,” Senecal said. “We want to have a model that allows us to go into small towns right away.”
The drive-thru format is smaller than the typical A&W restaurant with more visible signage.
“They’re meant to work in conjunction with a highway; the idea is we have great visibility,” Senecal said. “We’re hoping everyone in town will know where their A&W is located.”
Last year, A&W launched its urban franchise associate program. The program is designed to attract young entrepreneurs with a turnkey opportunity to learn the quick service restaurant business and to operate their own urban restaurant with an initial investment of between $125,000 and $150,000.
This year, the company plans to create a similar program that caters to millennial entrepreneurs who live outside of urban areas.
“In some cases, it’s the reverse of the urban franchise associate,” Senecal said. “We’ve seen young families thinking of leaving the city due to housing costs or other reasons and we want to be able to meet their needs as well.”
As A&W announced its plan to recruit 200 new franchisees, it also celebrated the opening of its first urban franchise associate restaurant. Barmil Mallhi, the first young entrepreneur to complete the program’s training, opened her franchise in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto in late February.
Mallhi, who moved from Winnipeg to open the franchise, said the low investment, ºtraining and assistance with location development convinced her to open an A&W.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with people, so I thought a restaurant makes sense for me,” Mallhi said. “I want my Junction location to be successful, then eventually I want to open more A&W restaurants.”