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Arby's plans menu changes under new owner

Atlanta-based Arby's is under new management as of this week, and that's not the only thing changing at the roast beef chain.

A top Arby's executive said the chain plans to launch a new version of its Angus sandwiches in the fall, is looking at a possible sweet potato snack product, and will relaunch its "Market Fresh" lineup of sandwiches, this time with flatbread.

Wendy's/Arby's Group completed its sale of Arby's to Roark Capital Group, of Atlanta, on Monday. The change comes as Arby's fights declining profits despite rising sales at its established restaurants over the past two quarters.

"They have to improve profitability," said Sara Senatore, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York. "That will also help their franchisees become more liquid and able to invest in the business."

Roark already controls restaurant brands including Moe's Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky's and others. Franchising is one of its main niches. About 70 percent of Arby's restaurants are franchised.

"We are thrilled to be part of their team because of their incredible experience in franchising," said Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby's. "They know what we're up against and what we're about. And we also like their ability to build brands."

A national television campaign called "Arby's -- It's Good Mood Food," has coincided with improvements in sales at restaurants open at least a year.

"Arby's had been struggling during those years in the recession," Moddelmog said. "We weren't sure we were even in people's consideration set. We needed to be talked about again."

Meanwhile, Wendy's/Arby's Group is changing its corporate name to The Wendy's Co. The company expects to maintain offices in Atlanta and Ohio, although executives have not made a final decision about the location of the corporate headquarters. The company's stock will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker  symbol "WEN."

Roark paid about $130 million in cash and assumed about $190 million of Arby's-related debt in the transaction. More than 300 employees will either join Roark or stay with the Wendy's brand in Atlanta. About 40 jobs will be eliminated at the previous headquarters of Wendy's/Arby's.

The Wendy's Co. which will keep an 18.5 percent stake in Arby's.