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Halloween costumes for pets are flying off shelves as Americans seek joy in the pandemic.
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Hello and happy Friday! 

While our (virtual) newsroom has been abuzz with all-things election-related this week, the retail team has been working hard to ensure you don’t miss a beat in the world of restaurants and retail. And since this week was an especially big week for Dunkin’, may we suggest grabbing a celebratory donut (or two) after hitting the polls? 

With that, I welcome you to another week of Insider Retail, Business Insider’s weekly round-up of everything that’s happening in retail news. If you haven’t already subscribed, click here to get me, Bethany Biron, and my colleague, Shoshy Ciment, in your inbox every Friday. 

Looking for even more quality time with the retail team? Lucky for you, you can hang out virtually with my colleagues Gloria Dawson, Catherine LeClair, and Madeline Stone on Thursday, November 12, from 12-1:30 p.m. ET for IGNITION: A Retail Revolution. Join us for the event, sponsored by Salesforce, to hear from retail entrepreneurs, executives, technologists, and investors about the state of the industry and their predictions for 2021. Register here.

Alright, time for some news:

Inspire Brands eyes $9 billion acquisition of Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins 

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AP/Mark Lennihan

Inspire Brands is plotting to expand its sprawling fast-food empire, and its latest target is Dunkin' Donuts.

The company — which owns Arby's Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In, Jimmy John's, and Rusty Taco — is currently in talks to acquire Dunkin' Brands, which owns Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins, for $8.8 billion. 

The beloved New England-based brand has expanded rapidly in recent years, and today boasts 13,000 global locations, including around 8,000 Baskin-Robbins restaurants, which operate as franchise sites. Beyond dropping the "Donuts" from its title in 2018, the company has evolved to include major menu revamps such as adding trendy beverage items like matcha and oat milk. 

Mark Kalinowski, CEO of Kalinowski Equity Research, told Business Insider's Kate Taylor this week that purchasing Dunkin' is a smart move for Inspire as it looks to integrate a coffee chain to its portfolio, with the added bonus of bringing in significant cash flow and maintaining steady business during a particularly tumultuous period for restaurants.

"[Inspire has] become experts over the years in acquiring and integrating other concepts — and making the sum of the parts greater than the individual concepts involved," Kalinowski said. "There are not that many large coffee-centric quick-service brands out there to go around. So if you want to play heavily in the coffee category, your options are limited."

Nordstrom is forcing previously furloughed workers to pay back health insurance fees   

FILE PHOTO: The Nordstrom store is pictured in Broomfield, Colorado, February 23, 2017.REUTERS/Rick Wilking
FILE PHOTO: The Nordstrom store is pictured in Broomfield

When Nordstrom furloughed store workers in April, it told them their health-insurance benefits would still be in place even though they wouldn't be getting a paycheck.

However, as Madeline reported this week, some store workers say they didn't realize they would have to pay Nordstrom back for the premiums the company covered.

While Nordstrom asserts it did in fact tell employees about the stipulation at the onset of the furloughs, the staffers say otherwise, pointing to murky communication between the company and its employees.   

For many penny-pinched Americans, an unexpected paycheck deduction could have devastating effects. According to a Bankrate survey of more than 1,000 American adults in July and August, 21% of respondents said they currently have no emergency savings, and just one in five said they have enough saved to cover up to five months of expenses. 

"We kind of assumed that that was the company being generous, as it is very often in certain situations," said one employee, who works at a Nordstrom store in Illinois and asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing his job.

Panera debuts pizza, Burger King tests high-tech drive-thrus, and Wendy's tries to reignite the chicken sandwich wars

It was a jam-packed week of news for fast food chains.

First, White Castle announced not only is it implementing robot cooks to make burgers and fries to select locations, but it's also giving employees paid time off to vote on Election Day — a rare move among its restaurant peers. Then, Wendy's rolled out a new chicken sandwich, designed to rival the likes of Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, and reignite the chicken sandwich wars of 2019.

That wasn't all. Looking to capitalize on the pizza boom during the pandemic, Panera added flatbread pizzas to its menu, Taco Bell reported massive sales growth thanks to the popularity of its Grilled Cheese Burrito, and Burger King is experimenting with high-tech predictive menus at drive-thrus.

Everything else you need to know

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