Sonic since late 2018 has been owned by Inspire Brands, which also controls Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s and Rusty Taco. On the podcast, Abou Habib outlines new ways the brands are working together. That includes combining media purchasing power. Inspire in 2021 hired Publicis Groupe to handle media via a bespoke shop called Inspire Media Engine. Beyond that, the individual brands are “leaning into a cross-brand learning agenda,” Abou Habib said.
“Every brand is a little bit different— how can we start to conduct experiments that are meaningful for each brand,” but also get “great learnings that we can then feed back into the larger ecosystem,” she said.
One manifestation of the new teamwork is the “Inspire Alliance Kitchen” in Atlanta, which is a so-called “ghost kitchen” that allows people to order delivery from multiple Inspire brands at once. The company has described the layout as enabling “a workforce cross-trained across multiple brands and skills, resulting in labor efficiency and expanded opportunities for team members to develop their careers in the restaurant industry.”
“We’ve learned a lot from it,” Abou Habib said, noting that Sonic previously did not have a big presence in Atlanta. She declined to reveal how, or if, the concept might be expanded, including if Inspire has plans to combine multiple brands in one building elsewhere. (Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins have long operated adjacent outlets; the ice cream and coffee and donut chain shared common ownership prior to being acquired by Inspire.)
Abou Habib pointed to how competitor McDonald’s recently began selling Krispy Kreme donuts in some locations. “Maybe we need some Dunkin’ Donuts at Sonic—never say never,” she said.