Media coverage

More Perfect Union digs into Roark Capital’s fast food empire

March 22, 2024

A recent video by More Perfect Union analyzes private equity firm Roark Capital’s low-wage fast food empire and how it impacts the approximately 1.4 million people working at their portfolio companies. 

Companies owned by Roark include Dunkin, Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, Jimmy John’s, and Subway, among others. Many of the retail brands owned by Roark focus on low-wage work, which as PESP’s Azani Creeks notes, results in a steady stream of workers cycling through these companies and makes unionization more difficult. 

Roark recently earned an “F” on the Private Equity Labor Scorecard, in part due to its labor practices. Among the eleven top private equity employers in the U.S., Roark had the highest rate of wage and hour violations at its portfolio companies. 

The franchise model embraced by Roark brands has enabled the private equity firm to skirt responsibility for poor labor practices by placing blame on franchise owners. But as PESP’s Azani Creeks stated:

“Roark as the ultimate owner still has control over what the franchises do. So either these workers are not being paid at the direction of Roark, or Roark is not giving the franchise the financial backing and support to be able to pay workers adequately. It really should be Roark as the ultimate owner to have the ultimate responsibility.”

Roark was also a subject of the PESP report PE Profits from Destroying the Atlanta Forest. Uncovering private equity connections to Cop City and Blackhall Studios, the report looked at how Roark Capital is a large, corporate backer of the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF). As of February 2023, Roark claimed $33 billion in assets under management, and Roark-owned Inspire Brands generated $30 billion in sales in 2021. Inspire Brands has multiple relationships with the APF. Inspire’s CEO Paul Brown sat on the Atlanta Police Foundation Board of Trustees, and Marshall Freeman, who served as COO of APF for seven years, is a board member of the Inspire Brands Foundation.


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