Dunkin' Sells to Owner of Arby's, Sonic, and Buffalo Wild Wings
Rumors began swirling last week, and late on Friday evening, the news became official: Inspire Brands and Dunkin' Brands announced the two restaurant giants would merge into one entity, with Inspire buying out Dunkin' for around $11.3 billion.
Despite its name, Dunkin' is actually home to two major brands: not only its namesake donut and coffee chain, but also Baskin-Robbins. Dunkin' has over 12,500 locations, while the ice cream legend has about 8,000 locations of its own. Those two chains will now be joining over 11,000 Inspire restaurants spread across five of its own brands: Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In, Rusty Taco, and Jimmy John's. Arby's and Sonic are the largest, with over 3,500 locations each, while Jimmy John's adds another 2,700-plus locations. Rusty Taco has over 30 restaurants across eight states, and the mostly dine-in Buffalo Wild Wings adds the final 1,200 locations.
"Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins are category leaders with more than 70 years of rich heritage, and together they are two of the most iconic restaurant brands in the world," Paul Brown, co-founder and CEO of Inspire Brands, said in announcing the buyout. "By joining Inspire, these brands will add complementary guest experiences and occasions to our current portfolio. Further, they will strengthen Inspire through their scaled international platform and robust consumer packaged goods licensing infrastructure, as well as add more than 15 million loyalty members."
The move continues what has been a meteoric expansion of Inspire Brands, which technically only launched in 2018, but dates back to 2011 when Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm, took majority ownership of Arby's. Buffalo Wild Wings was added in 2018, which is when the name was changed to Inspire. The Sonic buyout followed later that year, and Jimmy John's was added in 2019.
And interestingly enough, Roark has dozens of other investments—including over 20 other dining chains including Carl's Jr./Hardee's and Focus Brands—which itself owns seven brands like Cinnabon and Moe's Southwest Grill.
What all of this moving and shaking means for Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins—if anything—is yet to be seen. Roark clearly believes there's money to be made in chain restaurants—and as a private equity firm, that may be the end of the story: In the past couple of years, we haven't seen major consumer-facing changes to Inspire's other brands. That said, Dunkin' has been changing its focus in recent years: dropping the "Donuts" and pushing for a bigger slice of the coffee pie. New ownership could certainly accelerate the chain's push to become America's coffee king.