The world's largest restaurant franchise group may be for sale

The largest shareholders behind the massive Flynn Group are considering a sale of a majority stake, according to media reports.
Applebee's San Francisco
The San Francisco-based Flynn Group first launched in 1999 with eight Applebee's units. |Photo: Shutterstock.

The Flynn Group is reportedly considering a sale, according to multiple media reports, citing unnamed sources.

The massive franchise operation, founded by Greg Flynn, is considered the world’s largest franchisee with more than 2,600 restaurants under a portfolio of brands that includes Applebee’s, Taco Bell, Panera Bread, Pizza Hut, Arby’s and Wendy’s. The restaurants generate roughly $4.5 billion in annual sales and employ about 75,000.

Last year, the San Francisco-based company acquired 37 Planet Fitness gyms in a move to diversify the portfolio.

According to reports in BNN and Reuters, Flynn is mulling the sale of a majority stake in the behemoth, which could value the company at more than $5 billion, including debt. The company is working with Bank of America on the process, the report said.

Current investors the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, or OTPP, and Main Post Partners—each of which holds about one-third of shares—are considering divesting part of their shares but maintaining some level of investment, the report said. The management team is also a significant shareholder and might also divest.

Flynn Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Flynn, who also has significant holdings in real estate and hotel properties through separate entities, founded the restaurant franchise group in 1999 with eight Applebee’s locations, focusing exclusively on that brand for more than a decade before he added Taco Bell to the mix in 2013.

With a casual dining and fast-food brand under his belt, Flynn added the fast-casual Panera in 2015, then Arby’s three years later.

In 2021, Flynn acquired 937 Pizza Hut and 194 Wendy’s from the bankrupt NPC International, which at the time was the largest franchisee-to-franchisee acquisition in U.S. history.

Last year, Flynn acquired Pizza Hut Australia, which at the time added 260 restaurants to the group, and signed a master franchise agreement to develop 200 Wendy’s in Australia by 2034.


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


Reassessing McDonald's tech deals from 2019

The Bottom Line: The fast-food giant’s decision to end its drive-thru AI test with IBM is the latest pullback away from a pair of technology acquisitions it made five years ago.


Trend or fad? These restaurant currents could go either way

Reality Check: A number of ripples were evident in the business during the first half of the year. The question is, do they have staying power?


Starbucks' value offer is a bad idea

The Bottom Line: It’s not entirely clear that price is the reason Starbucks is losing traffic. If it isn’t, the company’s new value offer could backfire.


More from our partners