Thursday, April 25, 2013

A&W Improved Yet Not Improved

A&W on UrbanspoonNeeding to kill some time in Orleans, I decided to stop off at Place D'Orleans Mall to grab lunch and investigate what stores are on hand.  I visited the 2nd floor food court to find a wide array of the usual mall food court suspects.   With a burger in mind, I headed over to the A&W (110 Place D'Orleans Drive, Ottawa)

I was welcomed immediately by one of the two front counter people and immediately ordered.

The Order: 1 Teen Burger Combo (1 Teen Burger, 1 Medium Fries and 1 A&W Root Beer)

The order took an understandable 2 minutes to be prepared and come from the kitchen to the tray on the counter.  I picked up the tray and started to walk away.  I clicked in that on the tray a lack of ketchup.   Apparently, like I noted at my visite to the A&W location at St. Laurent Mall, A&W has undertaken a plan to reduce costs and increase revenue whenever possible. Things seem to have gone further than rationing napkins, straws and ketchup packets.  At this location (Place D'Orleans), I was not offered ketchup packets like at St. Laurent Mall and the Rideau Centre location.  In fact the previous customer had to request ketchup even after ordering fries with her order.  Seems A&W has figured out a way to be even stingier on the condiments by having customers request them in order to receive them.

I sat down and reviewed my tray again.  The packaging had changed claiming the new paper style packaging on both the fries and now burger is now compostable. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the new "greenish" feeling.  That "greenish" feeling soon disappeared as I looked around to see no compost or paper recycling options only glass and aluminum.  So where would the compostable packaging and left over material from the supposed compost material go? Right into the landfill.  No option of returning to the A&W compostable packaging to the counter or providing an appropriate receptacle was available.  Thus, I found the "compostable" label on the packaging is no more than a simple "green wash" to make corporate A&W look like they are doing something when when in actuality, A&W was doing nothing about the issue.

The fries also appeared to had changed.  The fries had more of a positive taste to the older A&W fries which tasted dryer. The new fries had a little moisture to them but were still crispy when being split in half.  The fries were a significant improvement over the old style A&W fries.

The Teen Burger seemed lacklustre. The burger toppings  seem to be just stuck in there just because they had to. One lettuce leaf clearly stuck out from both sides of the burger.  Obviously the lettuce pieces were not properly cut up for adding to the burger.  The toppings issue left the burger tasting uneven in terms of ketchup and other sauces.  Overall the burger looked like it was just thrown together by someone who could care less what the put out as food.  I was quite disappointed  especially considering the prices A&W charges for a Teen Burger combo, $9.50.

Overall, A&W as a chain needs to figure what exactly they as a burger serving establishment wish to provide. Does A&W want to be the old school Teen, Mama and Papa burger establishment catering to families?  Does A&W want to be a premium burger place like Hero Certified Burgers and Five Guys Burgers & Fries? If it is more like a family establishment, having a $9.50 Teen Burger Combo with the size of fries and drink is not very competitive compared to the McDonald's and Harvey's.  If they wish to move toward a more premium burger place then the quality of preparation I witnessed at the three A&W's in Ottawa I have visited.  Sure the fries were an improvement but the greenwashed food packaging, prison like rationing of condiments and the overall price seem to be lacking.
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