Five of Ray Allen's first six stands stood in Sacramento, California, home of the country's first "drive-in" featuring "tray-boys" for curbside service.
Despite government rationing of sugar during World War II, A&W Root Beer stands remained successful. Following the war, the number of A&W outlets tripled, as GI loans paved the way for private enterprise.
The Great Root Bear
In 1974, A&W sugar-free was born along with "The Great Root Bear," a mascot that served as a goodwill ambassador for the brand.
In March 2005, A&W began to appear in the Vintage Bottle, a 20-ounce bottle with graphics reminiscent of an old fashioned root beer barrel.
On June 20, 1919, while the citizens of Lodi, Calif., held a parade honoring returning World War I veterans, a young entrepreneur named Roy Allen set up a roadside drink stand to quench the thirst of the spectators. His new thick and creamy drink concoction, root beer, was an instant success at a nickel per glass mug.
So favorable was customer response to his root beer beverage that Allen immediately took on his first partner, Frank Wright. With his drink-stand success, Allen wasted little time in opening a root beer stand in Stockton, Calif. He soon followed with five stands in nearby Sacramento; two more opened in Houston in 1922. It was here that Allen first introduced "A&W" as the brand name of his root beer.
In 1924, Allen bought Wright's share of the business to actively pursue a restaurant franchise sales program. With the A&W Root Beer name trademarked, Allen began selling franchises to others. Buying a restaurant franchise enabled individuals to use their own capital to open A&W drive-ins and vending booths, thus establishing America's first franchised restaurant chain. By 1933, there were more than 170 A&W franchised outlets. To ensure the uniform quality of his beverage, Allen exclusively sold A&W Root Beer concentrate to each restaurant franchise operator.
Driven by the popularity of the automobile and the new mobile society, more than 450 A&W Root Beer stands were operating by 1950. In the same year, founder Roy Allen retired and sold the business to Nebraskan named Gene Hurtz, who formed the A&W Root Beer Company.
By 1960 the number of A&W restaurants had swelled to more than 2,000. In 1963, the A&W Root Beer Company was sold to the J. Hungerford Smith Company, the firm that had manufactured Allen's concentrate since 1921. In the same year, the first overseas A&W restaurant opened its doors in Guam.
Several more ownership changes took place during the '60s and '70s. And, while the only place you could get A&W Root Beer was on tap at an A&W restaurant, America wanted to enjoy it at home. In 1971, United Brands formed a wholly owned subsidiary, A&W Distributing Co., for the purpose of making A&W Root Beer available on the grocery shelf. Company purchases and mergers continued during the expansion efforts of A&W restaurants, but the root beer remained the category leader. In 1986, A&W Cream Soda and A&W Diet Cream Soda were introduced and distributed nationally, followed in 1987 by the reformulation of sugar-free A&W as Diet A&W.
In October 1993, the A&W brands, excluding the restaurants, became part of Cadbury Beverages.
In March, 2005, A&W began to appear in the Vintage Bottle, a 20-ounce bottle with graphics reminiscent of an old fashioned root beer barrel.
Today, A&W is part of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the leading producer of flavored soft drinks in North America and the Caribbean.