LEXINGTON, Kentucky – A&W Restaurants Inc. has signed its largest multi-unit deal since the brand was acquired from Yum! Brands by a group of franchisees in late 2011. The development plan calls for eight restaurants to open over eight years in Northwest Ohio.

The eight new restaurants in Northwest Ohio will be opened by Rooty’s Family Restaurants LLC, which already owns an A&W location in Delphos. Groundbreaking for the first restaurant in Lima is set for April, with the opening planned by July 4. All the new restaurants will be freestanding units within 1.5 hours of Lima.

“Consumers love the A&W brand and I love that it’s owned by restaurant operators,” said Rooty’s principal Don Unruh, a former Taco Bell franchisee who operated 30 locations but left the chain three years ago. “A&W leadership knows how to make decisions today that we’re all prepared to live with tomorrow. As franchisees we provide input to every decision that affects the brand.”

After leaving Taco Bell, Unruh bought the Delphos A&W in 2016. His son, Schuyler, the manager, is excited for the growth of his and his parents’ business.

“When Yum! Brands bought A&W, they tried to co-brand it with Long John Silvers,” Schuyler Unruh said. “You would be on the highway and you’d see a sign with both restaurants listed. Then they got rid of the fresh rootbeer and other items to boost their Wall Street performance. The franchisees saw how these changes were hurting A&W so they got together and purchased the restaurants and brought back the freshly-made rootbeer, hand-breaded chicken tenders and brought back the quality. It was a rebirth of A&W. Now we’re ready to get back to our roots and we’d like to see an A&W in the Kentons and Wapaks of Ohio.”

The first new location will be on Allentown Road in Lima by the Taco Bell with three other locations planned in the next three years in Findlay, Bowling Green and Perrysburgh. Rooty’s also has right of refusal on an additional eight locations, for 16 total, in the future.

“The rootbeer is the cornerstone of the business. That gets people in the door and the food keeps them coming back. People want more better-quality food and we provide that,” Schuyler explained.

A&W has nearly 1,000 locations worldwide, with more than 630 in the U.S. The iconic brand has seen an average sales increase of over 30 percent between 2011 and 2017.

After acquiring A&W from Yum!, the chain focused on stabilizing the business and growing profitable store sales. Once those initiatives were well underway, the brand embarked on an aggressive growth strategy. It recently expanded the efforts with the launch of a new franchise information website and progressive digital media strategy.