2011 A&W President's Award Winner - After joining the A&W team as a car hop at a Red Deer location Lydia Doiron

2011 A&W President's Award Winner - After joining the A&W team as a car hop at a Red Deer location Lydia Doiron

Taylor Drive A&W wins 2011 President’s Award

She may have started her A&W career as a lowly car hop, but Lydia Doiron has become the toast of the fast-food chain.

She may have started her A&W career as a lowly car hop, but Lydia Doiron has become the toast of the fast-food chain.

A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. announced on Thursday that Doiron’s Taylor Drive franchise has won its 2011 A&W President’s Award.

More than 750 restaurants across Canada were eligible to receive the honour, which recognizes customer service, business success and other achievements.

“It’s been great,” said Doiron of the award, adding that her co-franchisee Bob Mullen is also thrilled.

Mullen’s family were local A&W pioneers, with Bob’s father Howard and his business partner Bob Mitten opening Red Deer’s first A&W in 1959.

The Mullens have owned nine area franchises since, with the Taylor Drive location the last one that they’re involved in.

Doiron and Bob Mullen opened it in November 2006, and Doiron is now in the process of buying out her partner, who is retiring from the business.

Mullen praised Doiron’s commitment to excellence when it comes to food quality and service.

She in turn credited her “team” for the award, adding that she makes a point of helping will the day-to-day chores — from cleaning bathrooms to scrubbing dishes.

“I’ve always worked beside my staff.

“I’m not sitting down in the office doing paperwork, I’m flipping burgers and pouring root beer.”

That emphasis on teamwork and effort to be engaged in the restaurant’s operations helped earn the award, she believes.

Doiron’s involvement with A&W dates back to 1983, when she began serving motorists at the Mullens’ A&W on the east side of Gasoline Alley.

A third-generation resident of Red Deer, she worked her way up the ladder and was assistant manager at the west Gasoline Alley A&W when it won the 1993 President’s Award. She began managing the east Gasoline Alley A&W in 1996.

Doiron said she knew the Taylor Drive A&W was in the running for the 2011 national award, especially after it was the subject of a surprise audit on Feb. 2.

A second, unannounced inspection occurred about three weeks later, this time with A&W Food Services of Canada president and CEO Paul Hollands one of five company officials taking part.

“It was like they popped out of the ceiling,” said Doiron, explaining that the inspectors came in one at a time and quietly assessed the food, service and other aspects of the operation without anyone realizing who they were.

She learned that her A&W had been judged the country’s best two weeks ago, but the news is just getting out now.

“A lot of people don’t know yet,” said Doiron, who was still pondering how to celebrate with her customers.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com