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. PaulD says:

    One word: Excellence.

    Starbucks employees know what it is all about. So do Chipotle employees. And See’s Candies, too — though it wouldn’t hurt some of those ladies to stop acting like up-tight librarians.

    KFC, on the other hand, is definitely clueless. They run out of chicken. They don’t say anything when you pull up to their drive-through speakers (which is hidden in a dark corner behind the restaurant). I think Christmas in Japan is the only thing keeping them solvent.

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  2. Aarthur12 says:

    I once ordered a dish with tofu at a Thai restaurant and was told they were out. I also thought that tofu seemed like an essential ingredient for their business.

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  3. Frederik says:

    A regular (not high end) restaurant running out of meat or anything quickly perishable I can understand – you do not want to reach 100% service levels. This would take quite a lot of inventory and you would have to throw a lot away. But root beer? This stuff should last at least for a couple of months so perishing is not a problem and I cannot imagine that too much money would be bound if they tried for a 99.9% service level.

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  4. B says:

    Me, at KFC drive-thru: “I’d like a 2-piece meal, crispy, white meat please.”
    KFC employee: “We’re out of chicken”
    Me: “Oh. Can’t you just make some more?”
    KFC: “Uhhhhhh what?”
    Me: “Ya know, more chicken. That’s what you do here, right? Make chicken?”
    KFC: “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… I’ll have to ask my manager.”
    Me: “Never mind. I think I’ll grab a pizza.”

    This has happened more than once. I finally gave up on KFC.

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  5. Brian says:

    A few months ago I was sitting beside my father in the hospital watching his life ebb away. He struggled to speak to me… perhaps he was going to tell me what a fine son I was, or impart some final bit of wisdom… but what he wanted was a root beer milkshake. I figured at 89 years of age and with 48 hours or so to live, the least I could do was get him this final treat. And if you want root beer, A&W is the place.

    When I finally located one, I walked in to order it but was told that they don’t do root beer milk shakes. Vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, but not root beer. I explained my mission to the manager, and he graciously agrred to make one from scratch. He was an older fellow, and he was somewhat embarrassed that the famous A&W brand no longer extended to milkshakes, but this was apparently a Head Office decision and they were far wiser than he or their customers. Nevertheless, because of his extra effort, my dad had his root beer milk shake. He passed away the next day, happy I’m sure.

    BTW, although it’s totally off topic, my father was in Canada. The bill for his 7 week hospital stay which included colon surgery and 5 weeks in ICU… $0.00.

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  6. Robin says:

    I used to work at an A&W, although it was not owned by Yum!. The root beer came in a bag and box, just like all the other soda. We did run out from time to time and it was entirely due to mismanaging of the inventory by the store manager.

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  7. Jason says:

    I frequently have gone to a Boston Market when they’ve been out of chicken. (I guess they prepared for this years ago by changing their name from Boston Chicken.)

    A related annoyance that all kinds of stores (including, again, Boston Market) seem to commit: not opening when their sign says they’re supposed to open (or closing early). Essentially, you are lying or breaking a promise to your best customers!

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  8. David says:

    I don’t understand how the A&W root beer from the store/restaurants are made in the same manner as every other soda (syrup, carbonation, water), but taste so much better. What I mean is when you get A&W from a A&W restaurant or old-school drive up, it tastes 100x better than anything you get in a can, bottle, or at any other restaurant serving root beer.

    What’s the secret?

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