A lot has happened for Kate Jaspon ’98 since she last appeared in the pages of Babson Magazine for the Summer 2018 issue. Back then, she was CFO for Dunkin’ Brands, which included Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins and operated on an all-franchise model. She was instrumental in helping Dunkin’ and its franchisees weather the tumultuous first year of the pandemic, with projects that included negotiating new terms with lenders and suppliers on behalf of franchisees and helping them score scarce resources such as Plexiglas, hand sanitizer, and gloves.
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Then, in December 2020, Dunkin’ was acquired by Inspire Brands, in the second-largest take-private transaction in the restaurant space. (Inspire, a private equity-owned company, purchased Dunkin’ Brands, which was publicly traded on the Nasdaq.) The result is a portfolio of 32,000 restaurants across 70 countries, creating the second-largest restaurant company in the United States. Jaspon became CFO for Inspire in July 2021, relocating her family that summer to Atlanta, where the company is headquartered. She has switched from managing a Boston-based staff of 100 to a staff of more than 400 people in five offices around the world. Inspire is 93% franchise-owned, with the company itself owning and operating more than 2,000 restaurants.
Jaspon believes the franchise model performed especially well at the height of the pandemic, in part because it provided business owners with built-in support as they faced unprecedented challenges. “For small business owners, it was amazing to have other small business owners and leadership teams at corporate,” she says. “They could hop on the phone daily, describe their problem, and work through it together.”
“Business owners can rely on the franchisor to do things like protect the brand and innovate while they focus on building their business day to day.”
Kate Jaspon ’98, CFO, Inspire Brands
Given the challenges of the current market, “the franchising restaurant industry is ripe for consolidation,” Jaspon says. As business owners face the costs of upgrading digital technologies and third-party delivery services, for example, “it’s better for companies to come together to build scale.” Inspire aims for its brands to share more than finance and legal services. “We’re doing media buying, supply-chain purchasing, all of the IT build and commercial-service build behind all of the brands,” Jaspon explains, allowing franchisees to scale faster. “Business owners can rely on the franchisor to do things like protect the brand and innovate while they focus on building their business day to day.”
Over the past 17 years, Jaspon has witnessed significant shifts in the franchisee community. “We now have some second-, third-generation franchisees who have earned business degrees and have really partnered with us to help us expand the business,” she says. The field is attracting an increasing number of new business owners and private equity investment and sponsorship. “With franchisor and franchisee relations so strong right now,” she adds, “I think you’re going to see more people making this choice.”
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