But amid the pandemic, acquiring Dunkin ‘will be the fourth major takeover of the Inspire and its most recognizable brand to date.
Dunkin ‘, a public company, on Sunday confirmed media reports that it is in preliminary discussions of being acquired by the privately owned Inspire, although it said there was “no certainty that any deal would be reached.” Inspire declined to comment.
Inspire’s growth has paid off with a job in metro Atlanta. That has jumped from 375 headquarters jobs when it was just Arby to around 1,000 today.
Inspire has combined several back office functions in Georgia. But it keeps the image and menu chain different. And it maintains the “support center” on which the acquired brand is based. Dunkin ‘, which had about 1,100 employees at the end of last year, is headquartered in the Boston area, where the donut chain has deep roots.
The Inspire chain already has a total of more than 11,000 restaurants, many of which are operated by franchisees, and $ 14.6 billion in sales.
Brown told AJC in an earlier interview that Inspire’s move would “continue to cement Atlanta as the country’s restaurant capital.”
Chick-fil-A, Waffle House, Zaxby’s, Church’s Chicken and Krystal are all based in Georgia.
So are a number of brands with ties to majority owner of Inspire, the Atlanta-based private equity firm Roark Capital. Among Roark’s $ 19 billion assets under management are investments in Focus Brands (Moe’s Southwest Grill, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s and Jamba), CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s), Miller’s Ale House , Culver’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Corner Bakery, Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ and Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill.
Roark was founded in 2001 by Neal Aronson, who named his company after the fiercely independent protagonist in Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead. The book has been embraced by some conservative and libertarian political leaders. Roark, the company, states on its website that “as a company with multiple perspectives, the” name “does not signify adherence to any particular political philosophy.”
Brown, meanwhile, is a former leader at Hilton Worldwide turning to the restaurant business. She won praise for image changes on Arby’s, including her meat-loving adverts and the savvy social media movement. Inspire likes to highlight an interest in “maverick” qualities for its employees and brands, “each with a different positioning, guest experience, and product offering,” according to the company’s website.
John Gordon of Pacific Management Consulting Group, a restaurant consulting firm, said he had worked with Dunkin franchisees and that Inspire’s CEO was well-regarded in the industry. Roark, added Gordon, are seen as long-term investors looking to build brands rather than burden them with debt and aim for quick sales.
The pandemic has scrambled many restaurant businesses nationwide. But fast food chains with a drive-through option are seen as having strategic advantages for now.
Dunkin ‘saw a sharp drop in the first few months of the pandemic, but in its last quarterly release it said improvements were under way. Its donut shop business is already in the midst of shifting its focus to selling more hot and cold drinks, said Gordon.
The donut chain has more than 13,000 locations, although it is said to be shedding a number of units. Baskin-Robbins has another 8,000 locations.