A&W had a humble start, for what was to become both a root-beer behemoth as well as the first-ever franchised restaurant chain.
Roy Allen, a hotelier by trade, bought a root-beer recipe and ingredients from a pharmacist in Arizona in 1919. Being the entrepreneur that he was, he soon decided to sell his brew. Allen settled in Lodi, California, and on June 14, 1919, he began selling root beer to townsfolk during a parade. His original root-beer cart is long gone, but a plaque in front of the Beauty of the Beast Pet Salon at 13 Pine Street commemorates the spot.
In the next few years, Allen partnered up with an employee, Frank Wright. The duo named their beverage A&W Root Beer, as in A (Allen) & W (Wright). Soon after, the partners opened up stands in the nearby cities of Sacramento and Stockton, where they sold the beverage in cold mugs for just 5 cents. Eventually, Allen would buy out Wright’s shares, and, in 1924, he launched his franchise business, selling his root-beer concentrate and brand name to restaurant operators across the country.
Lodi’s current A&W is a few blocks away from the original location. The venue acts as both a restaurant (even serving via curbside car-hop) and a display of what owner Peter Knight believes is the largest A&W memorabilia collection in existence.
Know Before You Go
On Thursday nights, the Lodi A&W hosts a classic car show & cruise event.