Like many aspects of car culture, the drive-in concept at restaurants began in America and the first ones appeared as far back as the 1920s. The idea was for people to have their meals in their cars rather than get down and go inside the restaurant. The waiters would come to the car and take orders and special trays would be hung on the door for the food.
The drive-in was later complemented by the drive-through which spread to other countries more quickly. Perhaps the need for a large piece of land – not a problem in America – to accommodate a drive-in concept made it less popular in other countries whereas a drive-through was easy enough to integrate. It just needed a lane by the side of the building and drivers placed their orders as they went along and picked up their meals and drinks at a window.
Opened in 1965
As car ownership started increasing in Malaysia in the 1960s, the drive-in concept also appeared and older readers will remember the very first one at the A&W restaurant in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The same fast food chain also opened a similar facility along Bukit Timah Road in Singapore 5 years after the first one opened in Malaysia in 1965.
The drive-in at A&W was very popular and before long, every bay was usually occupied, especially on weekends and motorists had to wait their turn or just park and go inside. Although the company continued to open more outlets, the drive-in feature was not adopted. Perhaps it was also a reflection of changing preferences as people started to find sitting in a car to eat less comfortable with hot weather and it was nicer being inside the air-conditioned restaurant.
Instead, drive-thru facilities were provided and more outlets will have them in the coming year. Drive-thru facilities are becoming more popular as parking becomes a problem so people just pick up their meals on the way home or to office instead of wasting time trying to find a space to park.
As for the original drive-in at A&W PJ, its closure has been in the news over the past 5 years and early last year, the previous owner of the chain (KUB) confirmed that it would be closed down as the valuable land was to be sold off for redevelopment. The new owner of the A&W franchise in Malaysia said that while he would very much like to keep the historic and popular outlet going, the land on which it sits is now owned by someone else and he can’t do anything about the planned closure by the end of this year.
Limited edition 100th anniversary mugs
Meanwhile, business continues at the other A&W outlets and as the brand is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, two special edition Root Beer mugs are being offered to customers to take home. They’re priced at RM29.90 and RM35.90 each. However, you need to buy at least RM25 worth of food or drink at the restaurant to be able to buy a mug.
There are only 5,000 available so if you want one, act fast. They are sold at all A&W outlets nationwide but the more expensive one is only at selected outlets.