MEGA-DEAL: Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins may get new owners

The Dunkin' store at 1310 Woodman Drive just south of Linden Avenue in Riverside. MARK FISHER/STAFF
The Dunkin' store at 1310 Woodman Drive just south of Linden Avenue in Riverside. MARK FISHER/STAFF

Dunkin' Brands, the parent company of Dunkin' (formerly Dunkin’ Donuts) and of the Baskin Robbins ice cream chain, is in talks and may be nearing a deal to sell itself to the parent company of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and Jimmy John’s, according to the New York Times and multiple other media outlets.

The potential buyer is Inspire Brands, backed by the private equity firm Roark Capital, which media reports suggest is proposing to buy Dunkin' Brands for $8.8 billion, or $106.50 a share, a 20% premium over the company’s closing price Friday.

It’s not clear what impact, if any, such a buyout/merger would have on Dunkin’s local operations, which have expanded considerably the last seven years.

In 2013, shortly after he secured the franchise rights to become the owner-operator of Dayton-area Dunkin' Donuts stores, Pat Gilligan vowed in an interview with the Dayton Daily News to open a dozen or more new Dunkin' shops in the Miami Valley over the next several years. It was an extraordinary promise at the time, because the Dunkin' Donuts footprint in the Miami Valley had shrunk to just one store in Miami Twp. that was (and still is) co-branded with Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and remains under separate franchise ownership.

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Seven years later, Gilligan is well on his way to fulfilling his promise. He has opened nine locations in the region, in Kettering, Centerville, Sugarcreek Twp., Fairborn, Washington Twp., Springfield, Riverside, and most recently, Dayton and Beavercreek.

Just 10 weeks ago — when Dunkin' announced it expected to permanently shut down 800 stores nationwide in 2020 to streamline operations and boost profitability — Gilligan quashed any notion that any of his local stores would be affected.

“We aren’t' closing any,” Gilligan told the Dayton Daily News in early August. “We are continuing to build.”

Dunkin' has said that the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have shifted working patterns. Customers come to its stores later in the day and spend more on newer and more expensive items such as espresso and other specialty beverages, according to the New York Times. Dunkin' already brings in more than half its revenue through drinks, and it dropped “Donuts” from its name last year as it sought to shift its emphasis to coffee.

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In a statement released Sunday, Dunkin' Brands said: “Dunkin' Brands confirms that it has held preliminary discussions to be acquired by Inspire Brands. There is no certainty that any agreement will be reached. Neither group will comment further unless and until a transaction is agreed.”

In addition to an array of coffee and espresso beverages, Dunkin' serves a menu of hot teas, frozen beverages, doughnuts, other bakery goods as well as a selection of sandwiches. Most new Dunkin' restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, interior seating, and drive-through service. The shops also offer mobile ordering and a DD Perks rewards program.

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