Insider Retail: The US' largest restaurant operator bets big on Wendy's and Pizza Hut, as Walmart eyes the launch of a new health startup

Hello! Welcome to the latest edition of Insider Retail. 

Many predictions were made about the future of retail and restaurants in 2021 such as which brands will look to IPO and what trends prompted by the coronavirus are most likely to remain intact after the pandemic subsides.

And early on, we're seeing some of the biggest players make good on those predictions. This week, we're breaking down Flynn Restaurant Group's $550 million gamble on Wendy's and Pizza Hut stores. Walmart is also secretly launching a new health initiative aimed at helping customers make healthier choices. What's that about?

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Gregg Flynn, the largest franchise operator in the US, reveals why his latest bet on Pizza Hut and Wendy's is key to growing his restaurant empire

Up until last week, Greg Flynn's $2.3 billion restaurant portfolio included prominent brands like Applebee's, Taco Bell, Arby's, and Panera Bread. But there were two obvious categories missing: pizza and burgers. 

"They're the two largest segments in the industry, and we weren't in either of them," Flynn told Insider.

Thanks to its deal with NPC International, a now-bankrupt operator, Flynn Restaurant Group now owns more than 1,100 Pizza Hut and Wendy's locations. Flynn tells our correspondent Nancy Luna that one major factor caused by the pandemic helped push the acquisition over the line.

Walmart is working on a stealth health-tech venture that could change how you shop

Walmart's new health startup, to be developed through its Store No. 8 incubation arm, is expected to help customers make healthier choices while shopping, Insider first reported.

The retailer is actively looking for a CEO who's worked with clinicians and has a track record of leading health analytics and data science teams to head up the initiative. So far, the venture has no name and remains in the exploratory stage, but is expected to leverage Walmart's vast amount of customer data. 

Of course, Walmart has been no stranger to experimenting with new technologies and platforms of late, including:

  • Launching live shopping on TikTok in the US.
  • Using driverless-vehicle technology and drones to cut down on delivery times.
  • Mysteriously launching a nameless fintech startup with Robinhood investor Ribbit Capital.

Elsewhere in retail:

  • Here's how much PepsiCo pays engineers and designers.
  • Tonal continues its push against fitness rivals like Peloton after growing sales eight-fold in 2020.
  • VCs really want to fund startups focused on solving retailers' biggest problem: e-commerce logistics.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton on his company's vow to become an e-commerce juggernaut.
  • Amazon, Target, and Walmart are letting customers keep returned items after issuing refunds
  • The franchise developer who turned fast-food brands like Five Guys into national chains is plotting his next big move.
  • How Mark Ramadan prepped chocolate brand Hu for a $340 million acquisition by Mondelez in just over a year.

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