Where Have All The A&W’s Gone?

Every once in a while I get a craving and generally nothing really satisfies it until I get what I’m craving. And today I was just getting the bug to have some food from an A&W restaurant. I grew up in Canada and A&W’s are one of the first and larger fast food chains in Canada. I’d even go so far as to say they are far more popular in Canada than I’ve seen here in the United States (using in Southern California anyway). Usually when I get a craving for A&W its due to nostalgia for the Canadian A&Ws. I know the last time I got a craving for A&W and went to one of the ones here in San Diego I was disappointed because American A&Ws are nothing like the Canadian ones. The menus don’t offer the same items and the food doesn’t even taste the same. So I knew I was probably setting myself up for another disappointment but it’s been a couple of years since I last went to A&W but I was willing to chance it.

These days A&W is one of the “brands” of restaurants part of the YUM! Corporation which consists of all the restaurant brands bought up by the Pepsi Corporation. (In Canada, A&W’s were started by the American A&W’s but were sold off in 1972 and have no ties to the American A&W operations) I’m not sure if YUM! is just a new name for the division, a spun off & separate company, or even sold off, but anyway, they are home to familiar restaurant names, like Kentucky Fried Chicken (or KFC), Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W, and Long John Silvers. Pepsi originally bought up these restaurants so they could ensure these restaurants served only Pepsi products as beverages. One of the concepts YUM has been doing in recent years is putting in single locations that offer more than one brand in one restaurant. Usually it ends up being a KFC or Taco Bell co-branded with one of the other not quite as popular brands.

In any case, all of the ones in San Diego county were KFC/A&W’s and oddly enough all of them are in the South part of the county, none of them were in North County. So none of the locations are conveniently located for me. So I headed off to the closest location that Google maps pointed me to. I even checked it on the street view to see the location before going there and sure enough, there was a KFC & A&W combination store. However, when I got there, the signage for the A&W was gone, just the KFC remained. From the dirt on the walls where the signs used to be, it looked like it must have been a recent removal.

I headed off to the next closest one, which happened to be one I’d been to before and one that is currently offering coupons for the A&W in the 2010 San Diego edition of the Entertainment Coupon Book. This one was gone too. The signs were gone and the A&W on the door seems to have been covered over by Red Tape to match the look of the KFC logo on the other door. I looked up the next location, and it was gone too. I worked my way through the list of locations starting in the East County and working my way South and West and location after location, the A&W was gone.

About the only glimmer of hope I saw was a KFC/A&W location that had closed down completely, both were gone, but in the door was a sign saying this location was closed as of November 1st, and the address of the next closest KFC location and the next closest KFC/A&W location. Since November 1st was about a month and half ago, I figured that was recent enough that the A&W at that location would be there. No such luck, that one, the A&W half was gone too. The picture attached to this posting is of that location, see the dirt on the wall from where the signs used to be, it’s obvious a recent removal.

By the time I reached the last location, I was just on the outskirts of downtown San Diego and I was disappointed. I had a craving for A&W and no where to satisfy that craving. All the San Diego A&W’s were gone. I thought about driving out to Santee to go to a Sonic Drive-In, instead as they’re very similar to the A&W drive-ins I remember from Canada, but by this point I had driven far more miles than I wanted to go and it’s pretty close to where the first couple of A&W locations I had checked and I didn’t feel like backtracking to areas I’ve already been to.

Because I was so disappointed with this wild goose chase I decided getting a burger was just not going to satisfy me because I wanted an A&W burger and couldn’t get one. And I was ticked off at A&W’s website because it wouldn’t load on my iphone’s Safari browser due to the use of Flash on the site. I couldn’t even check to see that the closest A&W to me is now in Ladera Ranch, which is about 70 miles from where I live, and about 100 miles North of last former A&W location I checked.

I didn’t know what I was going to get, but I knew it sure as hell wasn’t going to be KFC as I wasn’t about to give any of those locations any of my money after being to six of their locations that are supposed to be KFC and A&W combination stores. And I wasn’t about to let any other YUM! branded restaurants get my money either. So I ended up getting Pick Up Stix Chinese food instead. It was good, but not what I was craving for. In the end it’s probably just as well I didn’t have the A&W because I know it’s nothing like the Canadian A&Ws which are what I really had a craving for in the first place. Maybe I’ll have to redeem some flight miles and make a trip to Canada this year to get my A&W fix properly satisfied.



2 thoughts on “Where Have All The A&W’s Gone?”

  1. I grew up with an original A&W five minutes down the road. By original I mean it was setup like a restaurant and even had the carhop menu and speakers. I’ve moved from there, and just noticed recently that my KFC/A&W/LJS is just a KFC now. Well it ends up that the co-branding was a complete failure. LJS is now suing Yum over it and It’s a complete mess.

  2. Hi Bard,

    Thanks for the comment. I am sorry to hear your local KFC/A&W/LJS is now just a KFC. The idea of co-branding sounded like a good idea, but I suppose the reality is that the locations never truly were able to convey the image they were just more than half assed efforts at the combined brands. The unfortunate bit is that KFC tends to be the brand that wins out in these combined locations if they end up becoming single brand locations. I like both A&W and LJS but rarely see single brand locations for those brands.

    Thanks for writing in.


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