10 companies you've never heard of control more than 50 of the biggest restaurant chains in the world

Food Chain WebYutong Yuan/Business Insider

  • Ten companies control more than 50 of the biggest names in the chain restaurant business, from Panera to Burger King.
  • As it becomes more expensive to run a restaurant, more chains are consolidating under mega-companies.
  • Here is a look at who actually owns some of the biggest names in the restaurant business.

Your favorite fast-food chain may not be exactly what it seems.

While chains like Burger King, Taco Bell, and Olive Garden have name recognition, many of the biggest brands in the restaurant business are actually owned by mega-companies. These holding companies and private-equity firms often invest in or own a number of brands, in and outside of the restaurant industry.

As costs rise, scale is increasingly crucial in the restaurant business.

"If you can take it and spread the cost across 8,400 restaurants versus 3,600 restaurants ... there's an inherent advantage in that," Paul Brown, the CEO of Arby's, Sonic, and Buffalo Wild Wings parent company Inspire Brands, recently told Business Insider.

Read more: Inspire Brands CEO reveals his plans for Buffalo Wild Wings' comeback, Sonic's expansion, and more acquisitions

Here is a look at which companies actually own some of the biggest names in the restaurant business:

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Yum Brands

Yum Brands

Yum Brands owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.

"We don't need to do an acquisition to build scale. We already have scale," David Gibbs, Yum Brands' president and chief financial officer, told Business Insider in December.

Gibbs says he believes scale is becoming increasingly important. For example, the company's scale helped make possible its deal with GrubHub, in which Yum Brands purchased a $200 million stake in the delivery company.

"That's why you're seeing so many other companies go out and try to acquire new concepts just to try and build their own scale," Gibbs said.

Read more: The company behind Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut hasn't been caught up in the restaurant industry acquisition spree — yet. Here is what the president is looking for.

Restaurant Brands International

Restaurant Brands International

Restaurant Brands International is the parent company of Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes.

"In the past, you've seen us be opportunistic," executive chairman Daniel Schwartz said in a call with investors on Wednesday, regarding the company's acquisition strategy. "We've acquired three incredible brands that we think have great global growth potential."

Going forward, Schwartz said that Restaurant Brands International would consider acquiring other "iconic" brands with significant long-term growth potential.

Read more: Burger King's parent company is rumored to be considering buying Papa John's. Here's what the chairman says he looks for in a brand.

Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants is the Orlando, Florida-based company that owns eight chains, including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

"Really, nothing has changed in the last 40 years with dining," Darden CEO Gene Lee said in a presentation in January.

"With all the technological advancements, if you think about it, we're still basically doing the same thing," Lee continued. "I don't see in the next 10 years any dramatic changes other than a continued transparency with what you're serving people. And, I think, you are going to have to be a little bit more convenient for them."

Read more: The CEO of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse's parent company reveals what the company looks for in an acquisition — and it's not a trendy fast-casual chain or a 'technologically advanced experience'

JAB Holding

JAB Holding

One of the most massive food-and-beverage giants is JAB Holding, the investment arm of the secretive Reimann family. JAB owns chains including Krispy Kreme, Panera, Caribou Coffee, Au Bon Pain, and Pret A Manger, as well as Keurig Dr. Pepper and bottled-water brand Core.

Read more: The European company that owns Panera and Krispy Kreme has quietly acquired a new bottled-water company in its quest to create a beverage empire

Focus Brands

Focus Brands

Focus Brands is the franchisor and operator behind Carvel, Cinnabon, Schlotzsky's, Jamba Juice, Moe's Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne's, McAlister's Deli, and Seattle's Best Coffee.

The company is owned by private-equity firm Roark Capital, which is reportedly considering an IPO for Focus Brands in 2019. Roark's portfolio expands beyond food and beverage, with stakes in companies such as Anytime Fitness and Drybar, as well as Inspire Brands, another restaurant-centric company.

Inspire Brands

Inspire Brands

In September, Inspire Brands announced it would be acquiring burger chain Sonic for $2.3 billion, including debt. The deal follows Inspire Brands — which already owned Arby's — closing on a deal to acquire Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco earlier in 2018.

"We like brands that are great brands, that have gone through a period of great success, and may be in a temporary period with a little bit of a challenge, where there's an opportunity to come in and get it back on a path," Inspire Brands CEO Paul Brown told Business Insider at the time.

Inspire Brands is majority-owned by Roark Capital.

Read more: Arby's former CEO is building a fast-food empire

Bloomin' Brands

Bloomin' Brands

Bloomin' Brands is the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse.

In 2018, activist investor Barington Capital Group encouraged the company to spin off or sell some of the chains to focus on Outback Steakhouse.

Brinker International

Brinker International

Brinker International owns Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy. Previously, the company has owned chains including Romano's Macaroni Grill, On the Border, and Corner Bakery Cafe.

Golden Gate Capital

Golden Gate Capital

Golden Gate Capital owns Bob Evans and California Pizza Kitchen, and it holds a majority stake in Red Lobster. The holding company's portfolio also includes Eddie Bauer, Pacific Sunwear of California, and Next Model Management.

Jollibee Foods Corporation

Jollibee Foods Corporation

In addition to its namesake Jollibee, Jollibee Foods Corporation has also invested in American chains such as chef Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera and Smashburger, which JFC acquired in 2018. JFC additionally serves as an international franchisee for a number of brands, including Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King.

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