Arby's former CEO is building a fast-food empire

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderArby’s parent company, Inspire Brands, is creating a fast-food empire.

Arby’s parent company Inspire Brands is creating a fast-food empire.

On Wednesday, Inspire Brands announced plans to acquire sandwich chain Jimmy John’s. The financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but following its completion Inspire will become the fourth-largest restaurant company in the US, it said.

Inspire CEO Paul Brown has been steadily building up a fast-food empire. Last year, the company – which is majority owned by private-equity firm Roark Capital – acquired Buffalo Wild Wings, Rusty Taco, and Sonic.

“We like brands that are great brands, that have gone through a period of great success, and may be in a temporary period with a little bit of a challenge, where there’s an opportunity to come in and get it back on a path,” Brown told Business Insider in early 2018, at the time of acquiring Buffalo Wild Wings.

Restaurant conglomerates such as Inspire Brands, Restaurant Brands International (parent company of Tim Hortons, Burger King, and Popeyes), Yum Brands (parent of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC), and JAB Holdings (owner of a range of brands including Krispy Kreme, Panera, and Pret A Manger) are on the rise.

With the new deal, Inspire Brands’ portfolio will comprise more than 11,200 restaurants across 16 counties with combined system sales exceeding $US14 billion, according to figures provided by the company.

Here’s how Arby’s CEO has begun his quest to create a new restaurant empire.


Hollis Johnson

For Inspire Brands, Arby’s is the chain that started it all. Brown led Arby’s in an impressive turnaround effort after joining as CEO in 2013, taking risks designed to make Arby’s stand out and grab headlines.

“We had to one, come up with a way of talking about ourselves in a voice that actually stood out, but we also had to be more creative about all the channels that you could use to get the message out,” Brown told Business Insider in 2017.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Hollis Johnson

In November 2017, Arby’s announced plans to acquire Buffalo Wild Wings for about $US2.9 billion. In February 2018, the company announced it had closed the deal and was forming Inspire Brands with Brown at the helm.

“I think there’s an opportunity to step way back and say it’s not and let it define its own category – a little bit of what we did with Arby’s,” Brown told Business Insider in February.

Rusty Taco

Rusty Taco, a chain with just 28 locations, was part of the Buffalo Wild Wings deal. But, it’s unlikely that Inspire will purchase another similarly small brand.

“Buying really small brands and trying to really grow them is not part of the stated strategy,” Brown said in February.

“We like R Taco, which came along with Buffalo Wild Wings, and that has some opportunity to do some fun and interesting things with it,” Brown continued. “We like to incubate a brand or two along the way, but that’s not our stated strategy.”


Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Sonic – known for its burgers, quirky menu items, and extensive beverage options– is the largest drive-in chain in the US with more than 3,600 locations. The chain has continued to operate as an independent brand out of its Oklahoma City headquarters.

“Sonic has had a significant focus on innovation, especially in guest-facing digital technologies,” Inspire Brands said in a statement at the time of the acquisiton. “In addition, its menu – especially its beverage innovation – is truly unique. Each of these areas are great growth opportunities for Inspire’s current brands.”

Jimmy John’s

Inspire Brands announced on September 25 that it plans to add sandwich chain Jimmy John’s to its empire.

“Jimmy John’s is a great fit for the Inspire family,” Brown said in a statement to the press. “What started in 1983 as a sandwich shop in a converted garage in Charleston, Illinois, has grown into a national, differentiated brand with a passionate fanbase. We are excited to welcome the Jimmy John’s brand to Inspire and look forward to working with their team and franchisees to help the company achieve its next stage of growth.”

Inspire did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

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