Probably Not the Way to Run a Restaurant

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: jetalone

I happened to be driving by an A&W restaurant the other day. I also happened to be thirsty. So I stopped in to order a frosty mug of root beer.

“We’re out of root beer,” the worker told me.

How can A&W run out of root beer? It doesn’t seem like the inventory costs associated with keeping a small buffer stock of your marquee product are very large. You might think that the first rule at A&W would be to always have root beer.

In defense of the restaurant, it was 11 am and the store had just opened. Perhaps the new shipment of root beer had gotten unexpectedly delayed and was arriving any minute.

Two days later, I once again found myself thirsty as I was driving by this same A&W. So I stopped in to order a frosty mug of root beer.

“I’m sorry,” the worker said, “We’re out of root beer.”

I think it is no coincidence that A&W and KFC are owned by the same company.

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  1. matt says:

    first world problems, man.

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  2. Christopher Browne says:

    This is certainly the sort of mistake that’s a big deal.

    When they’re selling a product that:
    a) Has the highest conceivable markup of anything they can sell;
    b) Is the “marquee product” for which they’re noted;
    c) Has a further “lowering of cost” in that it doesn’t involve royalties to other companies (e.g. – enhancing a);
    d) Involves syrup with a shelf-life measured in months (e.g. – on the order of a year) – contrast with vegetables that last days, at most;

    It is rather surprising that they would allow stores to run short of root beer syrup. Larger orders should improve economies of scale in a number of ways.

    One must suppose reasons why they might want to minimize syrup stocks.

    Is A&W Root Beer syrup particularly resalable, or otherwise attractive for thievery? That seems unlikely!

    The main alternative is that the organization has particularly poor management. That’s actually reasonably credible – A&W is not a “top tier” fast food place with reputation for highly policied operations like McDonalds. The operation essentially failed in the 1970s, so there’s some history there.

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  3. David says:

    I have been turned away from a Pizza Hut at 8PM (closing time was 10) when they were out of dough to make crust.

    I have been turned away from a wine bar that had no Chardonnay. Not any label.

    It’s called poor planning.

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  4. Gary says:

    For some reason A&W tastes significanly better from the restaurant than anywhere else.

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  5. David says:

    BTW — the no-Chardonnay wine bar? 5PM on a Friday.

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  6. zoltan says:

    I agree w/Travers – the Mozza Burgers in Canada are awesome – combine with a large onion rings and a large (diet!) root beer, it’s my favorite fast-food meal.

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  7. Nosybear says:

    Some genius figure out how to cut costs by reducing the inventory of root beer? Cutting costs is wonderful as long as it doesn’t affect the operation of critical business processes, in this case, providing root beer at a root beer stand. Problem is we often cut costs without looking at the processes behind them and the impact to the Customer. I’d guess this was the case at A&W. And who goes to Kentucky Fried Chicken for grilled chicken?

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