By Louise Kramer
Staff Reporter

Triarc's

(TRY)

bargain acquisition of

Snapple Beverage

from

Quaker Oats

(OAT)

last week for $300 million isn't the only thing that could juice up earnings this year at the $1 billion company. There's also roast beef.

At the same time the diversified company is working to finalize the Snapple deal, it's putting the finishing touches on a selloff of its 355 corporate-run

Arby's

roast beef restaurants to a major, and widely admired franchisee, closely held fast-food operator

RTM Restaurant Group

in Atlanta. The deal -- RTM's paying about $71 million and is slated to complete the transaction by June -- will transform Triarc's Arby's subsidiary into a franchisor, rather than operator, of restaurants.

That means no more mess and fuss running restaurants, just the work of product development, brand positioning and, of course, collecting franchise and royalty fees to add to Triarc coffers. The chain posted systemwide sales of $1.9 billion in 1995.

"Arby's is the quintessential cash cow," says Michael Branca, who tracks Triarc for

Lehman Brothers

and notes it's too early to say how the Snapple move will affect the fast-food chain. "At the end of the day, Triarc will own the Arby's franchise but will not have any capital-intensive restaurants. Moreover, RTM is exceptionally astute and undoubtedly one of the best restaurant operators in the country."

A corporate reorganization plan for Arby's -- including layoffs -- is set to be announced April 21, people familiar with the plan say.

Lehman has had a buy recommendation on Triarc since October 1995, when shares traded just above 9, Branca says. (A few analysts dropped coverage in the last year.) Thursday, when the Snapple deal was announced, the stock closed up some 10% to 17 3/8, a 52-week high, while the

Dow

took its pre-Easter tumble of 140.11 points. Lehman has not participated in any underwriting for Triarc, at least since Branca has been following the company.

Triarc, which is slated to release 1996 earnings Monday after the close, is a mini-conglomerate with four businesses: beverages, including

Royal Crown

,

Mistic Brands

and now Snapple; Arby's;

National Propane

, a liquefied petroleum gas company; and

C.H. Patrick

, a specialty dyes and chemicals concern.

First Call

consensus estimates for the year are 11 cents per share. John Maxwell Jr., of

Wheat First Butcher Singer

, says earnings could well exceed that figure based on his analysis of cash flow from continuing operations at Triarc last year.

Arby's, with 3,000 restaurants, has been struggling to reposition its fare as a cut above the fast-food burgers offered at industry leaders like

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

,

Burger King

and

Wendy's

(WEN) - Get Report

. A year ago, Arby's president and chief executive, Don Pierce, boasted he would upgrade some 150 corporate restaurants and pair them with one of three brands affiliated with Triarc:

ZuZu

, a Mexican concept;

P.T. Noodles

, a concept featuring pasta with international sauces; and

T.J. Cinnamons

, a cinnamon roll and coffee offering. Those plans stalled.

Last month Pierce was replaced by well-liked Arby's insider Roland Smith.

As for the MBA favorite, synergies, Triarc spokesman Martin Shea says it's too early to tell whether the lunch crowd will have a chance to buy diet peach Snapple with their roast beef sandwich and fries.

Arby's franchisees say bottled beverages just don't sell in fast-food restaurants. Customers prefer to buy their drinks from a fountain.

Franchisees of Arby's never cottoned to Triarc's

RC Cola

beverage brand. While the corporate-owned restaurants served up RC's drinks, franchisees early on refused to carry the brand and instead went with big names Coke and Pepsi.