Restaurant News & Reviews

This Lexington-based company is the first food franchise to ever be open for 100 years

A&W celebrates 100 years of root beer, floats

As Lexington-based A&W celebrates their 100th birthday, take a look back at past commercials and historical photos of the restaurant.
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As Lexington-based A&W celebrates their 100th birthday, take a look back at past commercials and historical photos of the restaurant.

Grab a root beer float and toast the restaurant that is older than sliced bread for giving us the bacon cheeseburger and the inspiration for the film “American Graffiti”.

A&W, the franchise that is headquartered right here in Lexington is celebrating a century of food service June 20. Their big age isn’t the only thing they are celebrating though — they are the first food franchise to ever be open for 100 years.

The company first began in Lodi, California during a parade honoring World War I veterans. Roy Allen set up a stand to sell his root beer recipe out of the illustrious frosty mug, and people loved the recipe. Soon after, he and his partner, Frank Wright, opened multiple locations throughout the entire state.

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An early 1960s A&W stands in an unknown location. June 20 marks their 100th anniversary of operation. Photo provided.

Throughout this time and throughout World War II, many soldiers were using loans from their GI Bills to open franchises.

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A&W founders Roy Allen and Frank Wright established their first stores in California. The company is now headquartered in Lexington. Photo provided.

In celebration of the day, A&W will be creating a fundraiser for Disabled American Veterans.

“There’s a lot of history in 100 years, but our longtime connection to veterans is a common thread,” said CEO Kevin Bazner. “That’s why we are especially pleased to again be supporting Disabled American Veterans – DAV – as part of our celebration.”

They will also be attempting to loop their 100th anniversary with Lexington Burger Week, starting July 8. During burger week, they will be reintroducing their Papa Pimento burger. According to Vice President of Marketing Sarah Mueller, this is their most popular sandwich to ever run, and they only release it during certain burger weeks.

The chain has gone through 11 ownership changes throughout 100 years, eventually bringing the headquarters to Lexington. Because of this, A&W is able to experiment with new items out of the Lexington franchises. Often times, Lexington customers are the first out of their 600 locations to try new or reintroduced items from their menu.

“I don’t see our headquarters ever leaving Lexington,” Mueller said.

The Lexington locations will be introducing some limited time only items at their stores. These include:

Beyond Burger, which is a plant-based burger.

Pub-Style Cod Sliders.

Nutter Butter Crème Treats made with Oreo.

100th Anniversary special collector mugs for sale in the restaurants.

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A&W, which is headquartered in Lexington, is celebrating 100 years of operation. Their celebration will be looped into Lexington Burger Week, where they will be selling one of their limited-time burgers. Photo provided

Eight facts you may not know

Here are some additional facts you may not know about the franchise:

In 1963, an A&W store opened in Malaysia. This would make it the first American restaurant chain to make it to Southeast Asia.

Also in 1963, Dale Mulder, one of A&W’s franchisees, became the first to invent the bacon cheeseburger.

There are 45 new locations scheduled to be open this year.

Its Modesto, California, restaurant was the inspiration for the film “American Graffiti”.

A&W root beer is older than sliced bread. A&W root beer came out in 1919 and sliced bread came out in 1928.

Between America’s and Asia’s A&W customers, guests consume more than 1.1 million gallons of root beer a year.

Since the company serves their root beer in a glass mug, they keep an average of 180 plastic cups per mug out of landfills per year.

All of the associates from the Lexington headquarters (including the president of A&W) work one regular shift at a restaurant per quarter.

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