Arby’s owner Inspire Brands to acquire Jimmy John’s

Founder Jimmy John Liautaud to step down as chairman as the sandwich chain is folded into the multi-brand company.
Photograph courtesy of Jimmy John's

Inspire Brands, the multi-concept owner of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sonic, is adding a fourth major brand to its roster in Jimmy John’s Sandwiches, the company announced on Wednesday.

Jimmy John Liautaud will step down as Jimmy John’s chairman once the deal is closed at the end of next month. James North will remain with the company as its president, reporting to Inspire CEO Paul Brown.

The deal will make Inspire the fourth-largest restaurant company in the U.S. with more than $14 billion in annual system sales and more than 11,200 restaurants.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the private equity firm owns Inspire Brands and a majority stake in Jimmy John’s. The deal was described as an “equity-for-equity transfer.”

“Jimmy John’s has found the ideal home at Inspire,” Liautaud said in a statement. “Inspire’s long-term approach, culture of innovation and commitment to helping brands grow set it apart from the rest.”

The acquisition is another coup for Inspire Brands, which has become one of the largest restaurant operators in the U.S. in a hurry. The Atlanta-based company was formed out of the 2017 acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings by the Roark-owned Arby’s, and then Inspire quickly hit again in 2018 with the acquisition of Sonic.

The company has stated that it plans to collect more brands. Brown called Jimmy John’s “a great fit” with a “national, differentiated brand with a passionate fan base.”

Jimmy John’s has more than 2,800 locations and generated nearly $2.2 billion in U.S. system sales last year. Liautaud started the company in Champaign, Ill., in 1983 and it has since helped to prove the business case for delivery by being the first major sandwich chain to operate its own delivery service.

But the company has since had to defend that position as other sandwich chains have added third-party delivery services.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Who's on your fantasy restaurant-management team?

Reality Check: Why bother with fantasy football when the ideal virtual C-suite is waiting to be picked? Here's my roster.


Veggie Grill evolves the menu to keep pace with plant-based trends

Behind the Menu: Since the fast casual’s start in 2006, many new meat and dairy alternatives have come to market and consumers’ health perceptions have changed. Veggie Grill has been forced to change too.


The Subway saga takes another turn

The Bottom Line: Just when we thought the massive deal was set to go through, the feds stepped in to have their say.


More from our partners