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Inspire Brands Featured in Entrepreneur’s 2021 Franchise 500

By Raj Prashad

Following a year unlike any other, Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s and SONIC Drive-In were once again featured in the Entrepreneur 2021 Franchise 500 ranking of America’s strongest franchises. Entrepreneur ranked four of our brands in the top 50 after evaluating and ranking brands based on strength, size and growth, support, franchising cost and fees and financial strength and stability.

After opening 67 new restaurants over the last year and achieving its 10th consecutive year of Average Unit Volume growth, Arby’s ranked in the top 50. In 2020, the brand 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.” Arby’s also continued to set trends with its interactive Greek Gyro Games activation, Deep-Fried Turkey Pillow and 2020 Holiday Collection.

Baskin-Robbins ranked in the top 50 with 350 new openings across the system. Baskin-Robbins made convenience a little sweeter by partnering with Uber Eats for delivery from more than 1,600 locations nationwide. The brand launched the “Pint-Sized Heroes” program, highlighting young people who gave back to their communities throughout 2020. It also rolled out a taste of bliss with new ice cream flavors like refreshing mango in the Triple Mango, a burst of chocolate and caramel in Date Night and the unexpectedly sweet and salty Salted Almond Honeycomb.

Buffalo Wild Wings was named in this year’s ranking after opening nine new sports bars and 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.

Dunkin’ ranked No. 2 overall with 559 new openings over the last year. In 2020, Dunkin’ continued to leverage mobile ordering and delivery options, while introducing curbside pickup as the work-commute crowd transitioned to home-based offices. Dunkin’ also offered a lineup of trendy new beverages in the form of matcha and oat-milk lattes and the most successful new offering since cold brew in the form of Dunkin’ Refreshers, made with iced green tea.

Jimmy John’s was named in this year’s ranking after it continued to emphasize serving kick-ass sandwiches on your terms with 47 new store openings in 2020. 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.

SONIC ranked in the top 30 with 34 new drive-ins opened in 2020. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, SONIC continued to emphasize culture by hosting its 26th annual DR PEPPER SONIC GAMES. 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.

More than 1,000 companies applied for this year’s ranking, according to Entrepreneur. To see the full list of the Franchise 500, click here.

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