A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. is a Canadian fast food restaurant chain.
A&W Canada was part of the U.S.-based A&W Restaurants chain, but was sold to Unilever in 1972, and then bought by its management in 1995. It no longer has any corporate connection to A&W operations outside of Canada.
The Canadian operation is owned and operated by the privately held A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. In December 2013, A&W was Canada's second-largest Quick Service Restaurant burger chain with 850 outlets after McDonald's 1,400 outlets.
The first Canadian A&W restaurant opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1956. The Canadian restaurants were part of the American chain until 1972 when they were sold to Unilever.
In 1975, facing competition from the growing Canadian operations of McDonald's, the company launched what was to have been a temporary advertising campaign starring an orange-clad mascot, The Great Root Bear. The bear and the tuba jingle that accompanied him became a long-running campaign (the tune, entitled "Ba-Dum, Ba-Dum", was released as a single by Attic Records, credited to "Major Ursus", a play on Ursa Major or "great bear"). The mascot was so successful that he was eventually adopted as the mascot by the American A&W chain as well. The famous tuba jingle was played by famed Vancouver jazz, classical and session trombonist Sharman King. King also did the ads for the "Book Warehouse" chain of discount book stores, which he owned.
In the early 1980s, the drive-in style of restaurant was phased out. It was replaced with a modern, pastel-coloured fast food outlet which included marginally healthier options. While the chain continued to open some standalone restaurants, A&W also aggressively pursued shopping mall locations, and as a result A&Ws are still commonly found in Canadian malls of various sizes.
In 1995, the chain was bought from Unilever by senior management. During 1997 and 1998, Drew Carey served as a spokesperson for the chain, appearing in TV ads alongside the Great Root Bear; he was dismissed (with legal action ensuing) after a November 1998 episode of The Drew Carey Show featured Carey eating at a McDonald's location in China.
By the end of the 1990s, marketing and products began to take on a more retro approach. Former menu items, such as the Burger Family, were reintroduced, and marketing became more targeted toward the baby boomer generation. The Great Root Bear and (in English Canada) the "ba-dum ba-dum" theme were also retired from most advertising (the tuba theme is still used in French-language ads). A new restaurant design was introduced, featuring a bright orange and yellow exterior, reminiscent of the 1950s, while the interior is decorated with memorabilia associated with the same period. Existing restaurants were renovated to match the new style. Meanwhile, with malls in decline, A&W began to focus on opening new standalone restaurants, particularly in smaller markets where McDonald's was often the only major hamburger chain. The last drive-in style restaurant closed in 2000, in Langley, British Columbia.
On February 15, 2002, the A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The initial public offering was 8.34 million units at $10 each. The fund owns the A&W trademarks in Canada and licenses them to A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. Revenue is generated by charging a three percent royalty on gross sales of each restaurant. Television advertisements are filmed at locations in the Fraser Valley. In June 2006, A&W celebrated 50 years in Canada. Some Quebec locations had been Dunkin' Donuts locations until Dunkin' Donuts closed most locations in Quebec.
Two new restaurant concepts were introduced in the fall of 2009. The new standalone restaurant design is ultra modern but with some architectural markings reminiscent of the design in the earlier buildings erect from A&W back in time. There is also a new separate format for urban (i.e., downtown) locations, where some of the baby-boomer aspects are scaled back in favour of a more modern look. On November 21, 2013, the chain opened its 800th location in downtown Montreal.
Apart from the namesake brand of root beer, the A&W menu is focused on "The Burger Family", a lineup of hamburgers introduced by the U.S. A&W chain in the early 1960s, mostly discontinued in the 1980s in favour of a more standard menu, then reintroduced in Canada and expanded upon beginning in the late 1990s.
The original Burger Family lineup consists of the Baby, Mama, Teen and Papa burgers. They are still sold today along with other burgers named after other family members:Baby Burger: small beef patty(1.6 oz), ketchup, unseeded hamburger bun
Mama Burger: regular beef patty(3 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
Teen Burger: regular beef patty(3 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, bacon, Teen Sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese slice, sesame seed bun
Papa Burger: two regular beef patties(6 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
Grandpa Burger: three regular beef patties(9 oz), onion slice, pickles, ketchup, mustard, Teen Sauce, sesame seed bun
Uncle Burger: 5-oz. beef patty, ketchup, Uncle Sauce (mustard mixed with Hellmann's Mayo), pickles, Chubby Mayo (Hellmann's Mayo), lettuce, tomato, three red onion rings, sesame seed bun
Buddy Burger: one or two small beef patties, mustard, ketchup, Teen Sauce, grilled onions, unseeded hamburger bun; value burgers, available in "little" or regular versions
The only non-"Family" member of A&W's beef burger lineup is the Mozza Burger, consisting of a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, mozzarella cheese, and Mozza sauce on a sesame seed bun.
Discontinued members of the Burger Family include the Grandma Burger, a prime rib burger topped with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce, and the Baby Burger Twins, which were a pair of sliders.
Another 1960s-era offering, Chubby Chicken, returned to the menu shortly after the reintroduction of the Burger Family. Chubby burgers are breaded all white-meat chicken breasts. There are three varieties offered;The Original Chubby Burger which is made on sesame seed bun, and comes with Chubby Mayo (Hellmann's Mayo), and lettuce
The Spicy Habanero Chicken Burger is made on a seeded bun, and comes with jalapeño aioli, lettuce and tomato.
BLT Chubby Burger is made on a ciabatta bun, and comes with Chubby Mayo (Hellmann's Mayo), two slices of bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
These can be ordered by themselves, or in combos. They also offer all white-meat chicken strips which come in either 3 or 5, by themselves, or in combos. Some locations offer fried chicken bone-in pieces. A grilled chicken sandwich, the Chicken Grill, is also available.
A&W launched a revamped version of their breakfast offering in the summer of 2014, in addition to the Bacon N' Egger, Sausage N' Egger, Classic Bacon N' Eggs, they launched several new items including, The All-Canadian Special, Three Egg Omlettes", as well as pancakes
Other offerings include the Veggie Deluxe (veggie burger with mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles), and traditional hot dogs as well as the Whistle Dog (topped with cheese and bacon). Available sides include french fries, poutine, and thick-cut onion rings. Recently, sweet potato fries have been added to the menu in some locations. The sweet potato fries are served with a small container of chipotle mayo. Drinks include A&W Root Beer and other Coca-Cola soft drinks, VanHoutte coffee, milkshakes, and A&W Root Beer floats (made with pre-portioned scoops of frozen ice cream by Nestlé).
Differences between the Canadian and American menus
The Canadian menu has some similarities to the current offerings of the American chain, but, owing to their independent management, also diverges in many respects. The only Burger Family product available by name in U.S. locations is the Papa Burger, although it differs significantly (adding lettuce, tomato, and cheese slices which are not included by default on the Canadian product). However, the American "Original Bacon Cheeseburger" appears to be almost exactly equivalent to the Teen Burger available in Canada. Notable products on the U.S. menu not available in Canada include deep-fried cheese curds, cheese fries, and soft serve-based products such as sundaes. The Whistle Dog a hot dog dressed with cheese, bacon and relish was available in Canada, but was discontinued at the end of 2016, along with the regular hot dog.