As I tucked in to a cold Mozza burger, I realised why this place was deserted.
It all started when we parked the car. If we hadn't previously come by day, we might not have spotted A&W at all. The tall A&W signboard by the roadside has no lighting and has a tree inconveniently growing all over it. It's extremely difficult to notice in the dark of night whilst entering Kuantan town centre.
The restaurant building itself is only illuminated inside - it looks like an empty, out-of-business food court or abandoned furniture store. (I'm still quite bemused concerning the utter barrenness of Kuantan's A&W when compared to the bustling outlet in Petaling Jaya Newtown.)
Perhaps I shouldn't be amazed. The strangeness continued as we left our car and approached a small side door - no grand double-door or open entrance like other fast food restaurants. In gripping the handle to push open the door, I almost fell forwards as the door handle was loose and hanging by a thread, almost ready to fall off, and in a sense, representing well the derelict building we were entering.
The next encounter we had was that of the rather high prices of the meals on offer. Even the 'a-la carte' side orders came to RM5+ for, for example, a waffle. When KFC and McDonalds are just a short drive further ahead, hungry consumers would definitely go with the popular and less-pricey eateries. I wonder if A&W Kuantan should switch off some store lights, light up instead the A&W signs, invest in some quality fliers, and reduce the prices to be more competitive with their glutton-inducing rivals.
My wife and I eventually selected our order, only to notice that the price display on the till was absent and out of order for whatever reason. That means the few customers that do come, can't see that the correct prices are being keyed in.
As we made our way upstairs, we passed a few plastic ceiling light covers which had seen better days and were now unfastening and hanging off. Our food did arrive remarkably quickly, but again, I instantly realised the speed of delivery was because we were the sole recipients in the entire restaurant! Part of our order was forgotten until we showed the staff our receipt, and the curly fries soon made their way to our trays with apologies.
Forgiveness was reciprocated back from me, as I couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for this forsaken outlet.
My burger was cold but tasted nice, and despite the fact we were only given two small packets of chilli sauce and one ketchup, the meal was satisfactory.
There was a nice child's playground which bore the marks of being well-used, from days when A&W Kuantan must have been busier. Lauren had a great time climbing, crawling and sliding. It's a shame she didn't fancy the root beer.
I can fully understand why this particular A&W outlet is empty, but there are simple maintenance, advertising and price-reducing investments to be done which could bring back the glory days of the child's playground and re-invigorate the traffic which passes through a fixed handle of it's door each day.