The founder of Roark Capital Group has led his company to become one of the largest players in franchising. Today, his portfolio includes brands like Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Roark’s focus on franchised restaurants may seem odd at first, but it has paid off for Aronson and his team. The firm has a knack for buying chains with high-performing units that are ready to scale.
Aronson’s ability to find and acquire brands that have the right combination of quality products, superior marketing, and a strong brand is key to his success. That, in turn, has helped him build a multibillion-dollar empire that consists of 90 brands with 63,000 locations and $54 billion in system revenues.
Among his most notable achievements are the acquisitions of Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon and Seattle’s Best Coffee International. The firm has also acquired a number of smaller fast-food and grocery stores, including Anytime Fitness, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wingstop.
The biggest win for Aronson and his team was the $17 billion in revenue that its portfolio generated last year. That’s a lot of money for a private-equity firm that started in 2001, and it’s a sign of the power that comes from owning a few key brands.
Aronson’s team has been successful at acquiring these companies because it understands the power of data. It scours consumer spending to find trends that can improve the performance of its portfolio companies. It also invests in technology that can help it track customers and improve operations. Unlike other private-equity firms, Roark doesn’t buy and sell deals for quick profit, but instead looks to help franchises grow over the long term.