Who Are the A and W in A&W Root Beer and Restaurants?

A&W is a well-recognized brand in North America, best-known for its root beer but also for its branded chain of fast-food restaurants: A&W Root Beer and A&W Restaurants. But what does "A&W" mean? Does it stand for something, or for someone? Someone's initials, perhaps?

The "A" and the "W" in A&W are, indeed, initials: the initials of the two men who created the brand way back in 1922. But one of those guys was far more important that the other — the "A" is the one who made the root beer famous.

In 1919 (and this is why the "since 1919" appears in the logo), Roy W. Allen created the root beer business. He opened a roadside root beer stand in Lodi, California, in 1919. Allen didn't invent the A&W Root Beer formula, he bought it from a pharmacist, but he's the one who took the formula and ran with it.

Allen start expanding and within a year had drive-ins in Stockton and Sacramento, too. And that's when the "W" enters, briefly, the picture.

The "W" is for Frank Wright, the man with whom Allen partnered, and whose name, along with Allen's, provided the A&W branding for the root beer. But Wright wasn't around for long. In 1924, Allen bought him out. But the A&W Root Beer brand was established by then, so he stuck with it.

In 1924, Allen launched the A&W Restaurants chain, one of the first in the United States. Interesting note: the restaurants were franchised and franchise owners had a lot of leeway to sell whatever food they wanted to. But they had to stock A&W Root Beer, of course, and they had to follow, exactly, the A&W Root Beer formula. Within a few years, there were 170 A&W Restaurants selling A&W Root Beer.

So that's the answer to the question in the headline: The "A" in A&W is for Roy Allen; the "W" in A&W is for Frank Wright.

Allen remained in charge of the company until he sold out in 1950. At their height, there were more than 2,000 A&W Restaurants in the United States and Canada. There are still several hundred today. And A&W Root Beer remains one of the best-known root beer brands. A&W Root Beer and A&W Restaurants are no longer under the same ownership, however.

Browse A&W Root Beer products on Amazon (affiliate links used in this post)