The First Frosty
One hot day in June of 1919, in Lodi,
California, an entrepreneur named Roy Allen mixed up a batch of
creamy root beer and sold the first frosty mug of this
delightful beverage for one nickel. Now, seventy years later,
A&W Root Beer is the world's number one selling root beer
and is still made fresh daily and sold at hundreds of A&W
Allen purchased the formula for his root
beer from a pharmacist in Arizona. To this day, the
unique blend of herbs, spices, barks and berries remains a
With the success of his first root
beer stand in Lodi, Allen soon opened a second stand in
nearby Sacramento. It was there that what is thought
to be the country's first "drive-in" featuring "tray-boys"
for curb side service, opened up.
In 1922, Allen took on a partner, Frank
Wright, an employee from his original Lodi location. The
two partners combined their initials - "A" for Allen
and "W" for Wright and formally named the beverage,
A&W Root Beer, Three units were opened in Sacramento, then
on to other northern and central California locations and to the
states of Texas and Utah.
Expanding The Chain
In 1924, Allen bought Wright's share of
the business to actively pursue a franchise sales program. He
had the name, A&W Root Beer and the A&W logo legally
trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.
By 1933, the creamy beverage was such a
success that Allen had over 170 franchised outlets operating
in the mid-west and west. To ensure uniform quality for the
namesake beverage, Allen sold A&W Root Beer concentrate
exclusively to each franchise operator. His profits were derived
from the sale of the concentrate and a nominal license fee.
During World War II no new restaurants
were opened and despite governmental sugar rationing (this
affected supplies of bottler’s sugar, a necessary ingredient
of root beer) and employee shortages (also a result of the war)
most A&W units remained successful. After the war the number
of A&W restaurants tripled as GI loans paved the way for
private enterprise to flourish.
In 1950, with over 450 A&W's
operating nationwide, founder Roy Allen retired and sold the
business to an aggressive Nebraskan named Gene Hurtz who formed
the A&W Root Beer Company. The post war era - the rapidly
recovering economy and popularity of the automobile,
provided the right environment for Hurtz's company to prosper.
Drive-in's were becoming increasingly popular and A&W had
the privilege of being one of the few nationally established
drive-in restaurant chains. By 1960 the number of A&W's had
swelled to over 2000.
first A&W restaurants outside of the U.S. opened in 1956 in Winnipeg,
Manitoba, Canada (the Canadian division eventually became a
wholly owned subsidiary of A&W and in 1972, was sold to
Lever Brothers, LTD., an international conglomerate.
In 1963, the A&W Root Beer
Company was sold to the J. Hungerford Smith Company, the firm
which had manufactured A&W Root Beer concentrate since 1921.
In that same year, the first
overseas A&W Restaurant opened its doors. Located in Guam,
the international division quickly expanded to the Philippines.