Why everyone is wondering about the future of Dunkin'

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we eat out, with dine-in chains being among the hardest hit by social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders. However, some chains have adapted to the new normal with increased drive-thru and online-order options, among them Dunkin', whose stock has risen 38 percent this year (via CNBC). The brand even updated its menu in response to shifting work patterns that meant more customers arriving later in the day, which was enough to see a rebound from the initial drop in sales (via New York Post).

Luckily, all this work seems to have paid off, since the company is now in sale talks with Inspire Brands, the private equity-backed owner of chains like Arby's, Jimmy John's, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Sonic (via USA Today). According to The New York Times, the deal is valued at nearly $9 billion, which is a 20 percent premium compared to Dunkin's closing share price on Friday. But what would this takeover mean for the future of Dunkin'?

What a post-acquisition Dunkin' might look like

Dunkin' has already changed quite a bit since it first went public in 2011, including the brand dropping "Donut" from its name last year in order to more directly compete with Starbucks (via The New York Times). While it might come as a surprise to casual coffee lovers, experts have considered Dunkin' ripe for private purchase for quite a while now, though Inspire isn't anticipating any competing bids.

If the sale does go through, Inspire is expected to expand the digital operations that have served Dunkin' so well this year, without sacrificing the brand's unique identity or franchise structure. In fact, chief executive of Inspire, Paul Brown, has said that he intends to organize the company like Hilton Hotels. However, some are speculating that Inspire could use this sale to bolster their portfolio before taking the company public. 

For now, neither Inspire nor Dunkin' is commenting on the deal until a conclusion is reached, so we'll just have to wait and see what the future of Dunkin' will be.