May 18, 2019

A&W Chose Purpose. I Chose It For Dinner.

You probably eat fast food. Many people do so daily.

According to a CDC report, almost 40% of Americans consume fast food on a daily basis. Cheryl Fryar, CDC health statistician, said, “On any given day in the United States, an estimated 36.6% or approximately 84.8 million adults consume fast food.”

That’s a lot of fast food being eaten.

Recently I was in the position of deciding to eat fast food. Pressed for time and travelling with children on a three-hour journey, I did what many parents do: we stopped for a quick meal to save time.

I don’t eat fast food every day. It happens on occasion, but it’s not a regular habit.

Given I was in a position to spend money in my home province of British Columbia, I consciously chose to feed the family at A&W, Canada’s fastest growing restaurant, now with over 950 locations. Why A&W?

It came down to how they operate, how they are treating planet-conscious, community-caring citizens like me. A&W earned my business because of its higher purpose. Other businesses might want to take note. I don’t believe I’m the only one thinking this way or voting with my wallet.

I figured I was going to spend about $50. As I was driving and coming to the conclusion that one business was going to earn my dollars and a bunch of them were not, I started thinking about why one should get my cash over the other.

In the case of A&W, I remembered the company had announced in January that they were banning the use of plastic straws in favor of marine-degradable paper straws. They did so in a unique way, gathering the remainder of their plastic straws and creating a sculpture outside of Toronto’s Union Station spelling the words “Change is good.” (See photo above.)

My children—aged 12, 13, and 16—have started berating restaurants serving plastic straws, so A&W’s tactic struck a chord with me. Paper straws are a big issue for Gen-Z. The Great Pacific garbage patch is laden with plastic straws. My Gen-Z kids saw this as a huge issue (thanks Instagram) and blamed any restaurant using plastic straws. Put one in the win column for Dad.

You might claim that “Dad didn’t want to upset his children,” I suppose. But there’s more to A&W’s story and my decision to eat there.

I also recalled a program in which A&W began donating food to local agencies. In partnership with its supply chain and local grassroots organizations focusing on food donations, A&W has donated over 55,000 pounds of food across Canada since 2016. When I relayed this story to my children of the good that A&W is doing in the community, they were elated.

Finally, while the drive continued and one of the children was plugging in A&W to our map app to find the nearest location, I remembered a friend telling me of a different kind of app that the company had recently introduced.

In partnership with Magnusmode—a company that specializes in creating a world “where people with special needs can fully participate with independence and inclusion”—A&W integrated the MagnusCards® app into its dining experience for guests with developmental or cognitive disabilities.

“The app’s step-by-step instructions guide guests through everything from ordering their burger to separating out recycling after they finish their meal,” states the company’s website. Ultimately the free app makes an A&W dining experience more accessible for everyone. I found that quite heartening.

Does A&W need to hit its annual revenue and profit targets? Of course, it does. But it has chosen to operate its business in a way that serves a higher purpose, a greater cause. It’s not just about money. The environment, community and assisting those who are less fortunate are a large part of its higher purpose.

When I knew $50 was going to be spent on fast food, I found myself thinking more about A&W and less about its competitors almost solely based on how it operates in society.

I suspect I’m not the first. I also believe more people will eventually make decisions this way, too.

And if you’re curious, the Beyond Meat burger is simply fantastic, and the rootbeer is second to none!


Dan’s Newest Book

Click for details about Dan’s latest book, Work-Life Bloom.

Buy Dan's Books
Listen to Dan's Podcast
Read Dan's Column On