Monday, April 02, 2007

A&W Malaysia’s Operations need Overhaul

I never quite understand why, in A&W, the burgers and hotdogs come in small boxes. When I am eating my Mozza Burger, pieces of lettuce spill over my hands and onto the table. In contrast, burgers in McDonald’s and Burger King are wrapped in paper. All I need to do is to partially unwrap the Big Mac or Whopper when I am eating them. It is a lot more convenient, and my hands don't get dirty as easily.

(I am referring to operations of the A&W in my country, Malaysia. It could be different elsewhere.)

Needless to say, I use a lot more napkins in A&W than I would in McDonald’s and Burger King. In other words, A&W is not environmental friendly.

A&W is also less efficient than its competitors. When I walk into a restaurant and order a “Combo Meal”, usually what I would get at the counter are the fries and rootbeer. The A&W staff would tell me, “Please take a seat and we will deliver the burger to you shortly.” It could be up to 3 minutes before the burger is served. Occasionally, I even need to wait for the fries to be delivered to my table.

I believe, in A&W, food is made-to-stock, so why the long wait? A few years ago, when I worked in the United States, I often dined in Jack in the Box. Slogan of Jack in the Box read, “We don’t make it till you order it”. In other words, Jack in the Box employed a made-to-order strategy. Despite that, I didn't have to wait too long before I got my food.

(Jack in the Box doesn’t have a franchisee in Malaysia, and I didn’t go to A&W in the States, so I can’t make a direct comparison.)

Customers could be unhappy for having to wait a few minutes, but there is more to that. Food that is not ready for collection at the counter will have to be delivered by the staff, so dining in A&W is not exactly self-service. Every A&W outlet may need to hire a few extra employees just to do the delivery job. This increases operating cost.

Long waiting time in A&W also points to another possible problem: the kitchen staff can’t prepare food fast enough to serve the customers. This, in turn, has an impact on the sale volume.

A&W opened its first restaurant in Malaysia in 1963. McDonald’s arrived in 1982. Today, there are more McDonald’s outlets in this country.

Mozza Burger tastes as good as Big Mac, if not better. Why is A&W not as successful as its competitors?


  1. I like your approach of discussing management/ operational efficiency using case studies which people can relate to directly in their life.

    Nicely done. Also, to add, McD has got some quality management and marketing team. Notice how the branding evolve from the happy cartoon characters to the cool-youth-I'm-loving-it theme.

    Another new concept of embracing the youth culture is the new marketing initiative of the "egg chair" and relaxing environment, which directly challenges Starbucks.

    But what I personally appreciate very much is their creation (and patent) of that pull-apart-string- device to squeeze the tea bag dry. that's some innovation which makes it convenient for tea-lovers, I'd say.

  2. yd,
    Thanks for your insight.
    I never know the pull-apart-string device you mentioned. Must try this out...

  3. I did a further check on the device.

    It's actually an innovative design by Tetley Tea, and UK McD bought up Tetley Tea.

    The product is called Tetley Drawstring.

    Sorry for the oversight, it's a design by Tetley and bought by McD.

  4. That means Tetley Tea is not available here in Malaysia?

    Can you take some pictures and show them to me?

  5. I love A&W - they make a far a better tasting burger than McD but they don't do well because of management practices and lack of decent marketing and advertising. Their burgers are usually cold when they are served which is disgusting.

    I usually eat at the A&W in PJ near Shah's Motel because I live in PJ and that place is a mess. Flies are a problem along with a general grubbiness that makes it seem seedy. Pity because I love their Mozza Burgers, onion rings and root beer.

    Burger King also does a good burger and has lots more outlets than A&W but like A&W, their marketing and advertising strategy is dreadful - there's none. The management is so lacklustre that they should all be fired but it's a govt-linked company that owns them so it's hardly surprising that it's so poorly run.

    None of them are as aggressive in their marketing as McD which does well despite an inferior product so they deserve to lose out.

    FYI, McD now serves their burgers in boxes too. Horrible practice because, as you said, it's messy.