Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club

The Dashboard A publication of the
Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club.
A not-for-profit corporation.
A chapter of Bow Tie Chevys
and Classic Chevy International.
January 2004

A&W Drive-In closes its doors

Reprinted from The Oklahoman, Thursday, December 11, 2003
by Elizabeth Camacho Wiley, Business Writer

The Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club has held many meetings at this location and we will miss going there. -Ed.

At 5 p.m.Christmas Eve, Ray Doonkeen and his sister, Yvonne Gonzales, will flip the door sign at their A&W Root Beer Drive-In restaurant to the “closed ” position one last time.

In business for 26 years at SW 89th and Western Avenue, Doonkeen recently sold the A&W franchise to the parent company, Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands Inc., for an undisclosed amount.

The purchase is expected to help further Yum! Brands ’ multi-branding concept, where more than one restaurant share a location.

The old drive-in will be replaced by an A&W / Long John Silver ’s restaurant less than one mile away, near Interstate 240 and Western Avenue- the location of a former Long John Silver ’s--in early January.

Doonkeen says he does not know what the company will do with his building. Yum!Brands operates and owns more than 35,000 restaurants in 10 countries under the brands A&W,Long John Silver ’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut.

The company has blended many of those restaurants under one roof to offer customers more convenience and menu item choices.

Yum! Brands subsidiary, A&W All-American Restaurants, contacted Doonkeen six months ago about purchasing the franchise that he and his father, Servellon Doonkeen, co-founded in 1977.

His sister, who joined the family business as assistant manager five years after it opened, said, “We grew our families here. My three sons all worked here.”

After chewing on the idea for three weeks, Doonkeen turned to his father, who owned a chain of five A&W franchises in Oklahoma City, for advice about the company ’s offer.

The elder Doonkeen told his son to “take it ” while he was still young enough to pursue other business ventures. Servellon Doonkeen emphasized that it ’s difficult to run a restaurant at an older age.

Servellon Doonkeen opened his first A&W restaurant, near SW 61st and Western, in 1965 with about $2,500. He saved that money while working in an Oklahoma City meat-packing plant for 21

The restaurant made him one of the first Hispanics in Oklahoma City at that time to own a national franchise, said Ray Doonkeen, who is president of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of commerce.

Servellon Doonkeen, now 80, subsequently bought four other A&W restaurants and later gave them to his two sons and nephews. “They didn ’t have to put any money into them,” Gonzales said..

Eventually, family members began selling the free-standing restaurants because “the restaurant business is a tough business,” Ray Doonkeen said.. They closed the fourth restaurant in 1991, leaving Doonkeen and Gonzales to continue the family business at the SW 89th location.

Doonkeen said he never considered ending the business operation until the Yum!Brands ’ offer..
“I guess I just love it. I ’ve been happy here,” he said..“But the purchase offer was to good to pass up and the timing was perfect.”

Doonkeen said he agreed to sell the restaurant under the condition that his nine employees, including his sister, were considered for positions with the new A&W/Long John Silver ’s.

Meanwhile, he plans to take a couple of months off before pursuing other business opportunities with his family. That includes building and operating recreational vehicle parks with his father. He and his father bought Roadrunner RV Park, near I-35 and SE 51st, in 1989 and plan to build a second operation near SW50th and Santa Fe Avenue.

“We knew that some day we would want to wind down, and that would be an easier way of making money than the restaurant business.”



Return to Dashboard Index.