Franchise M&A Update: Show Me the Money

Welcome to’s first “Franchise M&A Update”. Each month, I will be covering all of the major M&A, industry rumors and bankruptcy stories in the franchise space.

While Q1 2024 wasn’t nearly as busy as 2020-2022 due to the historically low interest rates, we still have 20 major news stories to cover here! 3 months’ worth of content for our first edition, coming ‘atcha:

Show Me The Money:

As many of the bankers and financiers predicted, beauty/health/wellness had a HUGE Q1 2024. Consolidation was called for, and boy did we get it. Major acquisitions by well-known platforms were sprinkled across the rest of the industry. Noticeable absent: very few commercial/home services deals due to inflated valuations stemming from COVID and practically zero F&B deals due to those pesky interest rates you keep hearing about. Now, let’s check out each detail with a bit more detail:

Beauty, Health & Wellness:

OrangeTheory Fitness & Self Esteem Brands Merge, Will Form New Portfolio Company: Let’s start with an atom-bomb of a deal, with two of Roark Capital’s fitness portfolio companies, OrangeTheory Fitness and fitness platform Self-Esteem Brands, joining forces for a yet-to-be-named strategic platform company. A lot is unknown is unknown at this point; many insiders (including this one) have no idea if the founders of each respective company will stick around to bring this new direction to fruition. One thing I do know: this will likely put this new platform in better position to take advantage of the consolidation trend we will continue to see in beauty, health and wellness. Bet on this platform making a noisy acquisition after this is clarified, they will most certainly have the juice to make one work in short order.

Head To Toe Brands Finds Their Anchor Brand, The Lash Lounge, In Purchase From Franworth: In a flash, The Riverside Company made their entrance into the beauty, health & wellness space in the only way they know how: quickly. In the past 10 months, The Riverside Company went from nothing to 3 brands (Bishops Cut/Color, Frenchies Modern Nail Care & now their anchor, The Lash Lounge). Arguably the crown jewel of this most recent acquisition (aside from achieving a lot more national scale): Head To Toe Brands was able to find their CEO in Meg Roberts, previously CEO of The Lash Lounge. Look for Roberts to build a team that will contend with other industry platforms for many exciting acquisition targets for years to come. 

MPK Equity Partners Acquires Image Studios: Easily one of my favorite industries within franchising, I love this investment for MPK Equity Partners, which makes its re-entry into beauty, health & wellness after several years away post-Radiance Holdings. Look for MPK to arm Founder & CEO Jason Olsen with lots of ammo to put up a bigger fight against formerly-owned Sola Salons, Propelled Brands-backed My Salon Suites and 10 Point-backed Phenix Salon Suites. 

9Round Purchases iLoveKickboxing, Cementing Category Dominance: As many of you likely saw in the press, iLoveKickboxing has struggled for many, many years. 9Round swooping in and purchasing the remaining locations is more about them being the established dominator of the space and less about people’s interest in kickboxing vs. normal boxing. Shannon Hudson is one of the fitness industry’s most exciting founders; can’t wait to see how they implement their new kickboxing prowess into their existing curriculum.

Xponential Fitness Divests from STRIDE Fitness In Sale To Long-Time Xponential Fitness Exec: As a publicly-traded company, Xponential Fitness has more than their board to answer to. If a brand isn’t cutting it for their shareholders, they need to change course…which is what this move was here. STRIDE has always struck me as a brand that would do well in “4 Season” climates since it is such a realistic running experience. Shaun Groves, a longtime Xponential Fitness executive, may be just the man to turn it around.

The Max Challenge & Farrell’s Xtreme Bodyshaping Merge To Form FIT Franchise Brands: These two brands have been selling slowly but surely through the broker networks for years. Seeing them join forces was an interesting wrinkle, but their familiarity with each other had the industry nodding their heads. Boutique fitness has faced some headwinds since COVID, so I’d expect more brands will choose to join forces rather than go at it alone as consolidation becomes more and more necessary for survival.

Food & Beverage:

Burger King To Acquires Largest Franchisee, Carrols Restaurant Group for $1 Billion: I spoke about this on my LinkedIn here, but I think this is more of a criticism of where Burger King is than Carrols Restaurant Group not being capable operators. RBI has a lot of work to do to get Burger King to the same place as their other portfolio companies (especially Popeyes), we’ll see if corporate makes it count with an increased corporate store footprint from this deal.

Craveworthy Brands Gets Sweet With Dirty Dough Acquisition: Gregg Majewski making his entrance into the Cookie Wars in January was well-covered by the restaurant space. Dirty Dough, which famously was at odds with industry-leader, Crumbl, has a massive distribution center that would be very attractive to a shared-service platform like Craveworthy Brands. This deal is buzzy because of the industry it resides in, but also practical because of the operational efficiencies it can create for the platform.

NewSpring Capital Goes Healthy With Shake Smart: Franchising’s interest in health-focused brands is well-documented. Patrick Segue’s interest in it is even more well-known in F&B circles (likely because of his time at Saladworks). This brand isn’t particular well-known for now, we’ll see if NewSpring’s management team can helped the founders change that.

Commercial & Home Services:

EverSmith Brands Moves For US Lawns: This deal is my favorite within this category this year because of what I think it will mean for EverSmith Brands. Like Millicare, their ability to lure a strategic seller to sell their “franchise division” to them was prudent. US Lawns has the most scale (and does the most revenue) of any of their brands in their platform (certainly helps they were an exterior commercial service brand vs. interior when the industry was hit hard due to COVID). Adding the intelligent leadership team led by Ken Hutcheson, this should work out well for all parties.

Threshold Brands Acquires Miracle Method: Another day, another Riverside Company platform acquisition. In bid to achieve more scale, Threshold’s move for Miracle Method makes a lot of sense on paper. The brand has historically kept a pretty low profile until now, let’s see if some of their successful franchisees decide to cross-invest in other Threshold Brands portfolio companies.  

Franworth Invests in MosquitoNix: As Franworth continues to transition from a “beauty, health and wellness” focused to “commercial/home service” focused, this investment makes a ton of sense. The mosquito control space has seen massive growth in the past 5-7 years with the 5 major players being acquired by platforms. Let’s see if Franworth can pull a similar trick.

Children’s Services:

Unleashed Brands Buys Sylvan Learning Center From Franchise Group, Inc: This is the big acquisition Unleashed Brands had really been waiting for. With new management in Seidler, their larger fund allowed them to go after their “2nd Anchor” that they truly needed to mature as a platform. Enter: Sylvan Learning Center, one of franchising’s most low-profile (but profitable) children’s services brands. Michael Browning is big on creating a place for kids to “learn, play and grow”, this puts them on a major path to learn with an Unleashed Brands’ portfolio company.

ABACO Makes Strategic Investment in Young Chefs Academy: Historically a pretty low-profile investor, I wanted to shout out Michael Abdy from ABACO on his strategic deal with Young Chefs Academy. Abdy has been prolific since 2020, turning around several brands to platforms in as little as 2 years. Let’s see if he can do the same in the children’s space, where many platforms are on an acquisition spree and many family offices are interested in investing.

Pet Services:

Propelled Brands Breaks Into Pets With Camp Bow Wow: To some, this appeared to be a bit of a headscratcher from a platform that has predominantly invested in B2B franchisors. To me, I see one of franchising’s most well-known chief executives (Catherine Monson) taking a bet on the pet industry continuing to explode in order to handle the COVID puppies maturing in age. Time will tell if this acquisition works out, but I think you’ll likely know if it does by Propelled Brands going “off-investment thesis” again for future acquisitions. 

Senior Care:

Best Life Brands Buys Next Day Access: Best Life Brands, The Riverside Company’s most mature strategic platform under management today, needed to expand services to continue their pursuit of senior care’s “continuum of care”. The mobility space has been an interesting one for years, many players have failed to transact (the last one being 101 Mobility selling to private equity several years ago. Not many large players here, so this is a bet by BLB that they can become the 10,000 pound gorilla.


VAST Coworking Group Acquires Intelligent Office From Empower Brands: VAST Coworking Group, a Starpoint Brands strategic platform (all of which is owned by the holding company many of you know, United Franchise Group), is on the hunt to create the “Bonvoy of franchise coworking”. Helmed by the talented Jason Anderson, keep your eye on VAST continuously looking to build out their coworking empire to give business owners every price-point, aesthetic and location mix imaginable.  

On The Franchise Trade Block:

When it comes to the behemoths of the franchise space, everything always starts out as a report instead of the acquisitions or IPOs just happening (think Subway announces they were looking to sell, which Roark Capital has a pending transaction for still). The two big ones that broke in Q1 2024 were explosions, so let’s take a look at them:

Inspire Brands Potentially Going Public in $20 Billion Deal: This was a MASSIVE deal when this story was reported. Roark Capital is famous for their long holds, so the restaurant space was certainly surprised when rumors starting floating around about an IPO. As one of F&B franchising’s most talented executives, Paul Brown certainly has the makings of a public-company CEO. Let’s see if this actually happens, especially at the eye-popping $20 billion price- tag.

Jersey Mike’s Mulling Potential Sale: Long considered to be one of franchising’s last great hopes when it comes to “keeping it in the family” in the same way that brands like Edible and Sport Clips have done before them, the industry was floored to hear reports coming out about Peter Cancro, CEO of Jersey Mike’s, potentially discussing a sale. Of course, these reports were shot down as quickly as they were leaked. But keep your eye on this story; I believe this deal would actually be even bigger than Subway’s (even though the deal is being floated at $2 billion less at this point, those AUVs cannot lie).

Bad, Bad News:

And finally, the big bankruptcy of Q1 2024 that had the restaurant trades abuzz (and made me mourn their cornbread):

Boston Market Files For Bankruptcy Protection: While this one isn’t a franchise, it’s a notable one to include since it has all of the makings of a catastrophe to all involved. Rent is owed all over the country, employee back-pay is multiplying by the day and vendors are being left high-and-dry. As we will cover in this section next month, this was the beginning of several bankruptcies were brands started grasping at straws and paid the price (their company).  

To read more about the going-ons in the industry, I have many places to do so! For starters, be sure to subscribe to Modrn Business Podcast to hear us interview some of franchising’s most impressive executives. On social, be sure to follow both myself and Ryan Hicks on both LinkedIn & X. If you’re reading this through our newsletter, check us out at the Online Community to join the conversation yourself. Finally, be sure to attend the events that hosts over the course of the calendar year, which you can learn about (and register for when available) at


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