While 2020 was expected to be a strong year for M&A, the pandemic brought deal-making to a halt for several months. As businesses get a better gauge of what to expect in 2021, there has been conviction about making transactions in recent months, Josh Benn, managing director and global head of restaurant, food and consumer corporate finance at Duff & Phelps, said.
Much of this year's M&A activity has been led by private equity-backed companies and the large public companies have yet to get involved, Benn said.
"The private equity-backed strategic thinking is more opportunistic in some cases, but also just about what the post-pandemic landscape is going to look like and how they want to position themselves relative to opportunities that might exist," Benn said.
Even companies that are in the middle of restructuring, but hold potential for growth have caught the eye of private equity. Friendly’s, which was struggling for many years and increasing its focus on takeout, catering and delivery, was bought by Amici Partners Group for $2 million in early November after declaring bankruptcy as part of the sale process.
"There is certainly a desire for a lot of these purchasers to get out there and try and reap the benefits of these reorganizations and try to see if they can shift these concepts into something, especially when you start looking at the takeaway and delivery and drive-thru concepts," Craig Ganz, partner at law firm Ballard Spahr, said. "Those are going to increase in value and the channel of takeout versus dine-in is going to increase."
Concepts that could or already easily pivoted to off-premise made them more attractive to potential buyers, Ganz said.
Inspire Brands' purchase of Dunkin' Brands for $11.3 billion, in what was easily the largest restaurant deal of the year, showed how valuable these off-premise concepts can be. Dunkin' appeals to commuters, has drive-thrus and has been working on improving its portfolio with the closure of some restaurant outlets, Michael Schaefer, Euromonitor global lead for food and beverage, said.
"[Dunkin'] is as close to a takeaway-only business as you can be," Schaefer said.
Check out some of the most impactful transactions to occur this year: