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. Kedar says:

    Me thinks when you go to a bank, you will be told they are out of money. Or go to Fort Knox, they will be out of Gold, lol – oh wait

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  2. Jeff #3 says:

    I’ve worked at numerous restaurants/stores in my youth, so I’ll answer some of these that are popping up.

    #32 people tend to prefer fountain mixed drinks to pre-prepared for various reasons. Sometimes the syrup/water ratio is different, or it could be the temperature that it’s served at.

    #35 The deep dish crust arrives at the restaurant as a frozen disc much smaller then the pan. One of the tasks of an employee there (amount according to a computer report that takes into account previous sale numbers) will be two pump oil into the various pans, add in a dough disk, and stash them away in the cooler for use the following day. Overnight the dough expands to fill the pan and can be used. If a restaurant runs out of prepped pans, they can’t make more on the spot due to thaw time. Original/thin/new york style crust was made fresh daily and if it ran out more could be made.

    General KFC running out of chicken issues:

    Chicken arrived at the store frozen in large blue 40 pound containers seperated to 1 bird (called a head) per bag. This came in the twice weekly supply truck. Most of it is placed in the freezer, whereas the chicken expected to be used in the next 3 or so days is stashed in the walk in cooler to thaw. As long as it’s not frozen or expired it’s usable. KFC corporate has a poor history of informing it’s stores of upcoming promotions, so if your store was out of chicken the day following a large sale is entirely possible (example: the Oprah fiasco). Otherwise it takes 15 minutes to prepare a new batch of chicken, so there’s really no good excuse for them to be ‘out’ and turn you away. If they’re out first thing in the morning, it’s because of poor management. If they’re out in the evening it’s likely due to a slow night, and the held product expiring and none being cooked to replace it. That or the night staff is lazy (a common occurence) and has already cleaned the fryers and don’t want to do it again (preassure cookers take 20 minutes to clean/filter properly and maybe 5-10 minutes to reheat). If it is a busy day, it’s entirely possible that they’ve sold out due to demand and are still in the process of making more. In the event of actually ‘running out of chicken’ the store CAN remain open. People due by sides, and things like strips and patties aren’t part of the ‘chicken’ inventory and are often still around if original/crispy is missing.

    Supplies can run out due to problems up the chain though. When I worked at a Burger King, the bun supplier would occasionally (happened maybe 2-3 times in a year and a half span) have issues that would result in all stores serviced by that supplier being shorted buns. While the store never exactly ‘ran out’ of buns, it did get pretty close, and on some nights resulted in a manager calling up other stores trying to trade flats of one bun type for another (which does not work well when all stores in the area are having the same issue). Some things like a nationwide tomato shortage are out of control of the store and need to be dealt with as is (which customers never understand).

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  3. Tim Matis says:

    Steven,
    Running out of Root Beer is definitely not normal or acceptable. We’re looking into it and apologize for the inconvenience. We’d like to invite you back to enjoy an A&W Original Root Beer Float or two on us. Please shoot me an email and I’ll coordinate getting you a coupon.

    Best regards,
    Tim Matis
    A&W Restaurants
    tim.matis@yum.com

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  4. Michael says:

    Yes, the root beer in restaurant does taste much better than store bought. And so I don’t think it is a simple matter of just having a bottle of syrup around

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  5. Nick says:

    I have been at a Dunkin’ Donuts, in the middle of business hours, that did not have a single donut.

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  6. Bruce says:

    On KFC…my first job in 1973, age 14. I cleaned up for one day, and started cooking the next…and for many of my shifts was the only person working in the back, riding my bike home after closing at midnight or later. (I think for about $1.45 an hour.)

    Even then, I couldn’t believe they would try and run the place that way. (And I only lasted 5 weeks.)

    I didn’t eat at a KFC again until about 25 years later…and rarely since.

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  7. Paul R says:

    Attended the first run of the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 (previously the Pepsi 400, previously the Firecracker 400) a few years ago. We went to the Coke Zero tent pre-race, to find they had a about six Coke Zeros left. Not cases. Six cans. The bar’s allotment for the entire week was a single-digit number of cases. Up we go to the stands. Lovely Coke Zero logo painted on the grass, Coke Zero signs everywhere, announcer says Coke Zero 400 every 15 seconds or so. Guess what’s not available, before the race has even begun. Plenty of Diet Coke, though. Things have since improved, but man, that’s your *launch*?

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  8. Ron says:

    I once went into a JP Licks that had a sign on their front door advertising that purchases of 1 specific flavor of ice cream that weekend would go to a certain charity. The sign of flavors is hand-written and one employee was finishing the menu board as I went in. I went in a few minutes after they’d opened and ordered the flavor and was told they were all out. I looked at the board and saw it there. I wanted to ask why it had been written there if they weren’t offering it, but was too stunned and just walked out.

    I used to love getting the ICEEs at Burger King. Several times in one summer I left work and went straight there to get one since the temperature had been pushing upper 90s. Every time I went in I was told they’d run out in the machine and had just taken the mix out of the freezer. Until it defrosted they couldn’t refill the machine and that could take up to an hour. You have to admire a system like that.

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