A&W Debuts Prototype, Training Center

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The Richmond, Ky., prototype is the first freestanding Gen19 prototype that "takes a holistic approach to guest engagement."

A&W Debuts Prototype, Training Center

By Anna Wolfe, Senior Editor - Restaurants - 12/17/2019

A&W Restaurants opened a national learning center and a prototype restaurant in Richmond, Ky., last month.

The 100-year-old brand, which is known for its root beer and drive-ins, operates about 1,000 restaurants worldwide. Back in 2011, A&W’s franchisees acquired the company from YUM! Brands.

But as it prepares for its second century in business, the venerable brand is looking to the future and has more than 70 locations in development. 

While A&W is always keeping an eye on the new trends in hospitality technology, we are deliberate in selecting what we implement and when, and that’s been working for us so far.
Rona Lascano, Director of Training and Restaurant Support

Located less than a half-hour from A&W’s headquarters in Lexington, Ky., the Richmond prototype is the first freestanding “Gen19” prototype that “takes a holistic approach to guest engagement.” The nostalgic design blends core A&W brand characteristics with contemporary elements, giving a familiar yet new feel. Retro neon signage, updated seating and pop art murals complete the look. Behind the scenes, efficiency improvements enhance productivity.

In an interview with Hospitality Technology, Rona Lascano, Director of Training and Restaurant Support, explained the opportunities ahead.

 

Technology That Makes Sense

 “When A&W re-acquired the brand in 2011, we needed to support 100 years’ worth of legacy restaurants that offer a wide range of service platforms including drive-ins and ordering from phones at each table,” she said.  “Our approach has always been to embrace this nostalgia while investing in technology that makes sense for our system as we grow.”           

The Richmond location features a traditional kitchen configuration with a monitor and bump bar to organize orders.  The POS system features guest-facing order confirmation screens.  An automatic labeling system by DayMark ensures consistent date coding of prepped products.

The brand also has implemented online ordering through ChowNow using a non-integrated tablet.  “This solution made most sense to us since we don’t have a unified POS system across our franchise restaurants,” said Lascano.

The brand has focused its attention on back-office management, which has reaped efficiencies. “We use QSROnline for scheduling and labor management, inventory and food management, and roll-up reporting to our leadership team,” said Lascano. “This has greatly reduced the amount of time our managers spend on administrative duties.”

 

A&W University

The Richmond location is also the new home of A&W University, an educational resource center for new franchisees and team members from around the country. It features a classroom setting along with hands-on experience in the adjoining restaurant, allowing participants to master A&W’s operational standards.

“Whether it’s our freshly made Root Beer and floats or our food, A&W offers guests a unique menu and experience,” said Kevin Bazner, president and CEO, in a press release. “This learning center is key to helping our franchisees succeed as they introduce the A&W brand to a new generation of guests.”

This year the training team launched a digital learning program using DiscoverLink. “The program lends to consistent station training through quick, fun modules that are taken in conjunction with hands-on station training,” said Lascano. “Along with this, we are testing company-administered tablets at select restaurants.  These tablets would be used to complete training modules, view training videos, and complete facilities audits.”

“While A&W is always keeping an eye on the new trends in hospitality technology, we are deliberate in selecting what we implement and when, and that’s been working for us so far,” said Lascano.