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.


Sigh, so they have other stuff but not what they are famous for? ROOT BEER????

How can you be out of a product that comes in a concentrated form/liquid & all it needs is a little CO2 + water???


I saw on Food Network that A&W's in the US make their own root beer in the back from a mix from the corporate office + cane sugar + carbonated water.

The A&W's here in Canada used to be owned by Unilever, and a friend of mine who works in the States says the Canadian A&W's are much better than American ones. Especially the food.

Hmm, according to wikipedia, A&W Canada is now privately owned through a management buyout.

All I know is, when you come to Canada: try the A&W Mozza burger. It is so vastly superior to anything the A&W US restaurants serve.


Stores run out of stock all the time; restaurants are much like stores with limited stock (lest said stock go bad). It's really not that hard to believe that they were out of root beer, even for a couple of days.

I work at a pizza place; we've been "dangerously" low on dough a couple of times - we've had 2-3 busy days' worth of sales on what is normally a slow day, and we can't get the truck there any faster, so we hope we don't run out before the truck comes for its next scheduled delivery.

The clerk may also have been fibbing a bit; it may be that the root beer dispenser was broken; it's sometimes easier to apologize for running out of an item than to explain that the tube is broken (quoth the customer "well, then, use a different tube").


I think the outages are planner, or at least, not avoided. Once you go in the store or drive through, it's very unlikely that you don't make a purchase. So why keep high stock levels of your cheapest items, when if you don't have it, the customer is likely to,urchase something a little more expensive?

Mark Adler

Once on long drive I stopped for a cup of coffee at a Dunkin Donuts. Caving in to my sweet tooth I also ordered a doughnuts. They were out. Out of doughnuts. At Dunkin Donuts.

I wasn't upset; just amused.

It's been a few years, and your story here, Steven, reminded me of it.


Arby's in Miami often run out of roast beef.


I was at an Arby's once that was out of roast beef.


In the last five years I have been to two Italian restaurants, who have discovered they had "run out of pasta" just as the evening shift was beginning, and evidently not had anyone willing to run down to the supermarket and buy some retail product.


I find it of interest that A&W in Canada is owned separately from A&W in the United States. Back in in the 60s maybe ? the franchise owners bought the rights in Canada and the difference between going to A&W in Canada and A&W in the United States is night and day.

In Canada, A&W stores are all homogeneous as you would expect from a national chain, while in the US, I found that a few that I went to were different and didn't even have the same menu as each other, not to mention that you can find an A&W in small towns across canada, and in RI, where I lived, there were 3 if I recall correctly.

But an A&W running out of root beer? That takes the cake.


There used to be a KFC just blocks from my house, and I had two young kids who loved fried chicken. Went there a lot, and got increasingly frustrated by the way the place was run. But the end came the night that I was told that they were out of chicken! It was about 7:00 on a weekday night, and the amazing thing was that the staff was completely matter-of-fact about having run out! In fact, they acted like they thought I was being weird about being surprised. I never returned. And soon thereafter the place closed. I still find it kind of hard to believe.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

If you want to keep a gambler coming back for more, use intermittent random rewards. Yes, it worked on you. You kept coming back.

And rare things are savored longer and sought after harder. If you could get rootbeer everytime without fail, when the rootbeer truck unexplainable ran out, you would never return.

Just think of it as a one armed bandit gambling machine trying to maximize its profit..


In St Louis, Panera is known as St Louis Bread Company. On more than one occasion they have run out of bread.


If you were thirsty, why in the world would you want Root Beer? Maybe the store was trying to help you.


This is all a cover up by the liberal media - America needs to pull its collective head out of the sand and realize what is going on. This is the great sassafras shortage of 2010!


I was met with a look of terror early one morning when I ordered a cup of coffee at a sparkling local coffee shop. The recently promoted day manager had forgotten to brew any coffee.

I was told at a local Wal Mart snack bar that they could not fill my son's order for nachos and cheese because they were out of nachos. Next to our blue, formica booth was a huge display of packaged nachos. The clerk thought it great anathema when I suggested that she could just buy some regular stock off the sales floor to fill orders.

When I gently suggested that some lettuce was needed on a salad bar at a Pizza Hut, my waitress quickly brought me an entire head of dripping, uncut produce.

Ian Kemmish

Somewhere, there's an evil economist tracking you via GPS, driving round in a car full of root beer.


"Cheese Shop," anyone?


first world problems, man.

Christopher Browne

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.



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.