Food blog

The Surprising Restaurant Connections: Chains You Never Knew Were Related

Restaurants you never knew were the same chain

When you go to a restaurant or fast food establishment, each one offers a unique experience. Whether you’re heading to Arby’s for its beloved curly fries, heading to IHOP for a signature short stack, or planning a family gathering with dinner (and plenty of breadsticks) at Olive Garden, you know that each of these chains offers something specific to the dining experience.
And while many restaurants may be independently owned and operated, there are a variety of brands that are actually owned and operated by the same parent company. The parent company may not be as well known as the chain’s name, but there are certainly some surprising pairings out there. We decided to dig into these restaurant partnerships, and the results are sure to surprise you. While some are complete opposites that you would never see together, others are choosing to join locations and operate under the same roof for a co-branded experience. These are the restaurants you never knew were the same chain.

Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon

Walking through the mall, it’s hard to ignore the wafting aroma of sweet cinnamon buns. And it’s hard to imagine that a company that started as a small operation run by a father and son duo has grown into such a popular staple. Cinnabon opened its first store in Seattle, Washington, in 1985 and has since gained a cult following across the U.S. and in more than 50 countries around the world.
At the other end of the mall, the smell of freshly baked soft pretzels from Auntie Anne’s, from plain salted to garlic parmesan, is hard to ignore. And while it may seem that these two common mall snack staples are competitors, they actually live harmoniously under one company.
Both Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s live under Focus Brands, after the parent company purchased Auntie Anne’s in 2010. But there are certainly plenty of other popular eateries in the same family. Jamba Juice, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s, McAlister’s Deli, and Moe’s Southwest Grill all share a piece of the family pie. And with all these brands in the mix, Focus Brands is one of the largest global foodservice brands, operating more than 6,000 units in 50 different countries.

Applebee’s and IHOP

When you walk into an IHOP, whether for breakfast or dinner, you know you can always order a short stack of pancakes. Other options like omelets, sandwiches and even a roasted turkey entree are also on the menu, making IHOP one of the most diverse casual eateries out there. Pancakes at 10 p.m.? You betcha! Seriously, you can get anything to eat at any time of the day.
Another casual eatery in the neighborhood, Applebee’s, has been around since 1980 and serves everything from wings and burgers to salads and seafood. And while both places boast a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere, they don’t have much in common other than their parent company.
Applebee’s and IHOP live under the same company, Dine Brands, after the investor completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of Applebee’s International Inc. in 2007. These are the only two restaurants that operate under their umbrella, but collectively the global company operates over 3,600 locations between the two brands.

Red Lobster and California Pizza Kitchen

While Red Lobster has long been known for its seafood options, from lobster to endless shrimp and crab, let’s face it, it may be those cheddar bay biscuits that really keep you coming back for more. The first Red Lobster opened in 1968, when founder Bill Darden hoped to bring great seafood to everyone in a convenient, affordable way. The concept caught on, and diners have been enjoying an abundance of seafood ever since.
As diners munched on cheddar biscuits, the chain caught the attention of Golden Gate Capital, and the parent company purchased Red Lobster for $2.1 billion in 2014. The sale was the latest feather in the parent company’s cap, adding the chain to California Pizza Kitchen, which it bought in 2011. Since then, the private holding company has also added family-style restaurant chain Bob Evans in 2017.

Arby’s and Jimmy John’s

Arby’s was founded on a mission to serve something quick and delicious that wasn’t the same old fast-food burger. It was time for something different, and when the first location opened in 1964, it was all about serving up freshly sliced roast beef paired with delicious toppings and sides like their famous curly fries. Oddly enough, Arby’s ended up teaming up with another sandwich chain, Jimmy John’s.
Arby’s and Jimmy John’s may seem like unlikely partners, but they share a parent company. Inspire Brands, a holding company that specializes in multi-brand restaurant chains, acquired both Arby’s and Jimmy John’s. This acquisition brought these two sandwich giants together under one roof.
Inspire Brands’ mission is to create a portfolio of diverse and successful restaurant brands. In addition to Arby’s and Jimmy John’s, Inspire Brands owns other well-known chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In and Rusty Taco. With this impressive array of brands, Inspire Brands has become one of the largest restaurant companies in the United States.
The combination of Arby’s and Jimmy John’s demonstrates the versatility and strategic thinking of Inspire Brands. While Arby’s is known for its slow-roasted meats and unique sandwiches, Jimmy John’s is known for its fresh and fast delivery service. Despite their differences, both chains have found success in their respective markets.
This collaboration allows Inspire Brands to leverage the strengths of each brand and provide customers with even more options. Whether you’re in the mood for a stacked roast beef sandwich from Arby’s or a quick and satisfying sub from Jimmy John’s, you’ll find it all under the Inspire Brands umbrella.
The restaurants you never knew were the same chain highlight the behind-the-scenes connections that exist in the restaurant industry. While these chains have their own distinct identities and loyal customer bases, their shared ownership reveals a strategic approach to diversifying offerings and expanding market reach.
So the next time you visit one of these restaurants, take a moment to appreciate the hidden connections and culinary empires that lie behind the scenes. Whether it’s Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon, Applebee’s and IHOP, Red Lobster and California Pizza Kitchen, or Arby’s and Jimmy John’s, these unexpected pairings demonstrate the dynamic nature of the restaurant business.


Answer: Some examples of restaurants owned by the same parent company are Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon, Applebee’s and IHOP, Red Lobster and California Pizza Kitchen, and Arby’s and Jimmy John’s.

How did these restaurants end up under the same parent company?

Answer: Ownership of these restaurants often came about through acquisitions and mergers. The parent companies saw the potential for growth and synergy by bringing these different restaurant chains under one umbrella.

Do these restaurants still operate separately even though they are owned by the same parent company?

Answer: Yes, even though these restaurants are owned by the same parent company, they generally operate independently. They maintain their unique branding, menus and customer experience.

Why would one parent company choose to own multiple restaurant chains?

Answer: Parent companies may choose to own multiple restaurant chains to diversify their portfolio, serve different market segments, and take advantage of economies of scale. This allows them to cater to a wider range of customer preferences and expand their market reach.

Does this common ownership affect the quality or menu offerings of individual restaurants?

Answer: In general, corporate ownership does not significantly affect the quality or menu offerings of individual restaurants. Each chain maintains its own culinary identity and strives to provide a consistent dining experience for its customers.

How many locations do these parent companies operate worldwide?

Answer: The parent companies behind these restaurant chains often operate thousands of locations worldwide. For example, Focus Brands operates over 6,000 locations in 50 different countries, while Dine Brands operates over 3,600 locations between Applebee’s and IHOP.

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