Yesterday, everyone (okay, to be specific, people born before the 90s) were talking incessantly about the highly anticipated comeback of A&W to Singapore.
Unless you’re just as old as us, you won’t have remembered the awesome A&W restaurant that was located on a boathouse anchored at Sentosa, or that A&W in Clementi with a large playground in front of it.
With many of our readers between the age of 18 to 34, which mean that some of you might not understand why your elder siblings or parents went crazy over this article, here’re some facts about this restaurant chain.
We’re so used to calling it A&W that we never did stop to question what it stood for, did we? Well, A&W actually stands for Allen & Wright.
And the full name for Allen is Roy Allen, while the full name for Wright is Frank Wright. Now that you know, don’t try to impress your date by saying that you want to have some Allen & Wright – it won’t work.
It’s founded by Allen & Wright (sort of)
Well, ar bo then?
It all started as a root beer stand (think of it as a small street stall selling drinks) by Allen in 1919. In 1923, Wright became a partner, changed the stand into a drive-in restaurant and rebranded it as A&W.
And guess what? One year later, Allen bought Wright’s shares in the business and Wright was out.
In other words, Allen & Wright were a partnership for only a year. Allen decided to continue using the name, though. The next year, he worked on a franchise model, franchising only the root beer while letting the franchisee to sell anything they want, and the rest is history.
First Fast Food Chain to open in Singapore
You’d be surprised to know that A&W is actually the FIRST fast food chain to set up here in 1966, preceding current fast food giants like McDonald’s (1979) and KFC (1977).
This is why you can really call A&W the grandfather of Singapore fast-food.
Their first outlet was opened in Dunearn Road, something that most of us will probably not remember because most of us will remember the A&W Boathouse at Sentosa instead.
They are well-established
One might mistake them for not being well-established since they lost to other fast food chains, but that’s the opposite actually. They are well-established and pride themselves on serving ‘all-American’ food such as ice-cream waffles, which was a hit with the kids and curly fries which is similar to what McDonald’s sells today – twister fries – except that A&W’s curly fries are regarded as better by many people.
Well, at least according to the uncles in the office. No aunties here to validate that.
You still get to see their logo in Singapore
The fast food chain might have left Singapore and would only be back in 2018, but you still see A&W root beer selling at supermarkets’ shelves and eating places.
You see, there’s a little difference between the restaurant and the drink. Remember that the initial product was merely root beer, and that Allen allowed the franchisee to sell any other stuff with the root beer?
While they sell the same root beer with the same brand, A&W Restaurants are a chain of fast-food outlets and A&W Root Beer is a drink. So essentially, while you see the same logo, in business sense, they’re two different entities altogether.
The nearest A&W Right Now
If you’re craving for A&W right now, because 2018 is just too far away, then be prepared to bring your passport along. The nearest outlet that we know about is the one at Aeon Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru. There’s a direct bus you can take from Jurong East Bus interchange: Causeway Link. The trip there cost S$4, and the trip back cost RM 4.
When & Why did A&W leave Singapore?
A&W left Singapore in 2003 because of a downward decline and losing the competition with other fast-food restaurants. Isn’t that the same reason why many other chains have closed down?
When & Why did A&W come back Singapore?
It’s a series of reasons, but for the sake of brevity, here’s what happened: they focused on getting better food, spent a lot on improving their quality and in February 2017, grew for the first time in 10 years, with an increase of 28% in revenue.
And with growth, it would have motivated them to expand, and their first four stops in Southeast Asia are Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and of course Singapore.
(Article continues below) Xing Xing is a 34-year-old Singaporean lady who decides to meet up with an online friend she found in Facebook. But it turns out that he’s not what he seems to be: Prepare boxes of tissue and watch the saddest Singapore Facebook love story here:
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A&W is here to stay
Well, we aren’t A&W, so what gives us the right to say that?
Because the change in management and ownership has proven that. Remember the sudden growth of A&W? It’s not due to some CEO deciding that it’s time for a change: it’s a change in ownership of the brand. Prior to 2011, the brand was owned by Yum!Brand, which sold A&W franchises.
In 2011, A Great America Brand, a company in the US, acquired the brand, and the growth began. Anyone who invests knows the mantra for a good company is management, management and management, and now that A&W is in good hands, they’ll be in our good mouths for a very, very long time.
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