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2020 Rewind: How Inspire Ignited and Nourished Flavorful Experiences Across America

By Raj Prashad

While 2020 has provided a unique set of challenges, Inspire and its brands have continued to ignite and nourish flavorful experiences for millions of Americans every day. A maverick spirit, hard work and focus on the guest experience was on display day-in and day-out at the drive-thru, sports bar and drive-in of restaurants across the country while Inspire successfully completed 147 new restaurant openings in 2020.

With the recent acquisition of Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, we encompass $26 billion in annual systemwide sales, nearly 32,000 restaurants worldwide, 3,200 franchisees and more than 25 million loyalty members, making Inspire the second-largest restaurant company in the United States by system sales.

Over the last year, Inspire continued to elevate the communities its brands serve with 10,000 hours of volunteerism logged during a company-wide initiative, Good Citizens Month. Inspire also supported team members through a virtual series of engaging support center team member activities called Camp Inspire and Young Achievers Academy, which has provided free, socially-distanced remote learning and school enrichment for parent-team members.

Arby’s Inspired Smiles Through Delicious Experiences at 67 new restaurants in 2020 and expanded into Mexico with an exclusive menu featuring high-quality, slow-cooked and freshly sliced meats. The brand took a unique approach to advertising throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, using old footage to highlight the Pecan Chicken Salad Sandwich and animation to spotlight new Market Fresh Wraps.

Arby’s continued to innovate on social, exploding onto the TikTok scene alongside a viral sensation, riding a wave of  Internet fame to show the strength of its to-go bag and launched a national campaign based off its “missing menu.” And the brand continued to set trends with its interactive Greek Gyro Games activation, Deep-Fried Turkey Pillow and 2020 Holiday Collection

Buffalo Wild Wings Created Legendary Experiences Between Friends at nine new sports bars while launching the first-ever Buffalo Wild Wings GO, designed specifically for takeout and delivery orders. The brand brought back the fan-favorite BOGO Boneless Thursdays, launched 14-hour smoked brisket as part of its expansive menu, developed four new wing flavors, introduced a new house beer at sports bars nationwide and earned the Nation’s Restaurant News 2020 MenuMasters Award for Best Menu Overhaul.

America’s largest sports bar brand also made headlines with its partnership alongside iconic R&B group Bone(less) Thugs-N-Harmony, created a mini Dawg Pound in Cleveland and became the official sports bar of the League of Legends Championship Series.  

Jimmy John’s continued to emphasize serving kick-ass sandwiches on your terms with 47 new stores, including its first airport location at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

The brand also offered free sandwiches for AmericaFreaky Fresh Bread® on Demand at a time when access to daily necessities was needed most, made the Jimmy John’s delivery experience available to even more guests through a unique relationship with DoorDash, and appointed a new creative agency of record as part of some big plans for 2021.

After being named one of the 40 most exciting startup brands to start 2020, Rusty Taco rode that momentum to a year of culinary, operations and unit growth. It opened four new restaurants in partnership with new and existing franchisees, including a second Arizona location complete with a custom bar and one-of-a-kind locally-inspired cocktail menu.

The brand built on its foundation of fresh tacos and ice-cold margaritas with a bevy of new limited-time offers and craveable customization options for its core menu: the double-decker Uptown Stacked taco, a line-up of Loaded Quesos, and premium new beverages like the Top Shelf Topo-Rita and the Blueberry Pomegranate Margarita. It also turned the Green Street Taco, a recipe first created by its Dayton-area franchisees and exclusive in that market, into a systemwide best-seller. 

On top of culinary innovation, Rusty Taco adjusted operations while communities across the country were impacted by COVID-19 with the rollout of new To-Go Taco Packs and Taco Bars. The brand also made headlines in Texas and Ohio with its grassroots To-Go Margs Forever petition that generated nearly 5,000 signatures and pushed to make to-go alcohol sales permanent. 

This holistic effort was applauded by industry peers, as Franchise Times nominated Rusty Taco as one of the top Mexican restaurant franchises to finish out the year.

Topo Chico Rusty Taco

SONIC Drive-In continued to offer guests a Little Oasis in Their Daily Routine with 34 new drive-ins, including the first drive-in in the new ‘Delight’ design in Oklahoma. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, SONIC hosted its 26th annual DR PEPPER SONIC GAMES, continued to support teachers during remote and in-person learning efforts, honored high schoolers unable to attend prom by crowning the first-ever QuaranKing and QuaranQueen and announced the launch of the SONIC Foundation.

America’s favorite drive-in put guests in the driver’s seat with a new advertising campaign, auctioned off its famous SONIC Ice and made it easier than ever to discover new menu items and promotions through a new Amazon Alexa Skill. Those new menu items included the savory Queso Burger, the triple-layered Lemonberry Slush Float, the indulgent Brownie Batter and Yellow Cake Batter Shake and a smooth and energizing balanced Espresso Shake.

Inspire is building a family of complementary, highly-differentiated brands that only continues to grow as we approach 2021. But none of this would be possible without our team members, franchisees and suppliers.

To all our team members and franchise employees – thank you for everything you do to make our brands shine and our guests smile.