What Inspire Brands’ Purchase Means for Dunkin’ and Its Agencies

From its relationship with Publicis to expansions and product collaborations

dunkin donuts
Inspire Brands' acquisition of Dunkin' Brands roughly doubles the restaurant group's size. iStock
Headshot of Richard Collings

The acquisition of Dunkin’ Brands by Inspire Brands for about $11.3 billion including debt, announced last week, will reshape the restaurant landscape as consolidation continues.

The purchase builds on Inspire’s shopping spree—the holding company formerly known as Arby’s Restaurant Group and currently owned by private equity firm Roark Capital has acquired four brands in as many years. In late 2017, the company inked a $2.9 billion deal for Buffalo Wild Wings. A year later, it bought Sonic for $2.3 billion, then in September 2019 it picked up Jimmy John’s for an undisclosed amount (though the sandwich chain was said to have $2.1 billion in sales at the time).

Adding Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins will increase Inspire’s systemwide sales to $26 billion from about $14.6 billion and expand its restaurant locations from 11,000 to more than 31,600 around the world.

Currently, there are more than 12,500 Dunkin’ and nearly 8,000 Baskin-Robbins restaurants globally. Both Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins will be operated as distinct brands within Inspire.

“By joining Inspire, these brands will add complementary guest experiences and occasions to our current portfolio,” said Paul Brown, co-founder and CEO of Inspire, in a statement. “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.”

Though restaurant businesses have been under pressure due to the pandemic, including coffee chains, Dunkin’ managed to fetch a 20% premium over its closing stock price on Oct. 23, which was before news of the deal first broke, according to Eric Gonzalez, a restaurant analyst at corporate investment firm KeyBanc Capital Markets.

“Under the leadership of former McDonald’s executive David Hoffman, Dunkin’ Brands’ focus has been on improving franchisee profitability and reinforcing its heritage as a beverage-led, on-the-go brand,” Gonzalez wrote in a report.

He lauded Dunkin’s performance during the past few months, crediting the company’s success to initiatives such as menu simplification, new espresso equipment, new drive-thru tools and digital app improvements.

One opportunity for Dunkin’ going forward as a private company is it may be more willing to invest in growth via the remodeling of stores and expansion into the western U.S., according to Andrew Strelzik, a restaurant analyst at equity research firm BMO Capital Markets.

While analysts saw a lot of positives in the deal, it may have implications for Dunkin’s numerous vendors, namely its creative agencies.

A potential agency shake-up

From an advertising perspective, the most notable aspect of Inspire’s purchase is the implications it may have for Dunkin’s media agency Publicis, hired more than two years ago to handle media planning and buying.

Inspire announced in early August that it is conducting a review of its national media agencies, inviting incumbents to participate in the process. It tapped Jones Lundin Beals + Partners to assist with that search.

The company said it was seeking a primary agency partner to work with its in-house media team “to provide strategies and tactics that collectively benefit the brands.”

“As a multibrand company, we see an opportunity to better align our media approach with a focus on custom targeting, digital business and CRM efforts alongside optimizing media delivery and impact. This review of our media agency assignments will help sharpen our competitive and innovative edge,” said Brian Pruitt, vp of media strategy and planning at Inspire, in a statement at the time.

According to a spokesperson for the restaurant group, the media agency review is currently underway. As for the purchase of Dunkin’, Inspire is not providing further comment as it focuses on completing the transaction, the spokesperson added. Dunkin’ also declined to comment.


@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.
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