Celebrity chef Laurent Tourondel and his Sag Harbor burger joint, LT Burger, have been sued by BLT Restaurant Group for breach of contract, with allegations that Troundel has infringed the company’s trademarks in the opening of LT Burger.
In the suit, which was filed on August 31 with the United States District Court, BLT Restaurant Group alleges that Tourondel and his partner Michael Cinque, an East Hampton resident who owns Amagansett Wine & Spirits, “have infringed the plaintiff’s trademarked menu and deceived the public by opening a restaurant that mimics plaintiff’s well-known line of restaurants.”
From 2004 to 2010, Tourondel was a part of the BLT Restaurant Group, which according to its website stands for “Bistro Laurent Tourondel.”
According to the suit, between 2004 and 2009, BLT Restaurant opened 18 restaurants beginning with BLT Steak in New York City, but branching out to include other restaurants concepts including BLT Fish, BLT Prime and BLT Market before opening BLT Burger in New York in October of 2006.
The group contends that the dining experiences created for BLT Burger were built around a “unique menu” that offers both traditional burgers as well as alternatives not usually found in a burger joint, like lamb burgers and falafels. The menu also provides pairing opportunities with homemade milkshakes, some alcoholic, as well as draft beer.
According to the suit, in 2010, Tourondel “was increasingly at odds with other members of BLT Restaurant” and ceased to be a member of the group by February 2010. This past July, Tourondel and Cinque opened LT Burger at 62 Main Street in Sag Harbor in the former site of Grappa Wine Bar, Jeff & Eddy’s and The Black Buoy.
BLT Restaurant Group claims that Tourondel and Cinque “copied core elements of the BLT Burger Menu almost exactly at LT Burger.”
For example, BLT Burger offers a specialty burger with high quality beef for $16 called the “American Kobe,” which it sources from Snake River Farm in Idaho. LT Burger boasts the “Snake River Farm American Kobe” burger for $16.
The classic burger and combination platters are sold at nearly identical prices at both eateries, the suit adds, and both menus describe their meat as being a combination of sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket.”
The duplication extends, alleges the suit, into LT Burger’s milkshake menu, which BLT Burger states “most of which are lifted directly from the BLT Burger Menu.”
Specifically they site, the “Twinkie Boy” milkshake from BLT Burger, which is a combination of vanilla ice cream, Twinkies and caramel syrup. LT Burger offers a milkshake called the “Twinkie” with the same three ingredients.
BLT Burger also offers “The Lunch Box” milkshake, a combination of vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and grape jelly,” with LT Burger now boasting the “PB&J” made of the same ingredients. The suit goes on to detail half a dozen other shakes they believe were lifted from their menu and brought to LT Burger, including several formulas for BLT Burger’s alcoholic shakes.
BLT Restaurant Group contends this is a breach of Tourondel’s contract with the company and that LT Burger is using the same proprietary recipes owned by their company, as well as the same pricing structure.
They also allege that Tourondel, in the creation of his promotional magazine, “LT living,” copied the layout of their group’s magazine “BLT living,” even using the same printer, and attempting to distribute the magazine to BLT restaurants across the country.
The group requests damages and a permanent injunction preventing Tourondel from infringing on the BLT Burger menu as well as legal fees.
Calls to Cinque were not returned as of press time.