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Burger Wars

Posted on 24 September 2010

web LT Burger

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.

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5 Responses to “Burger Wars”

  1. John Brien says:

    I have to say this is the first time EVER that I have signed up to make a review of any place i have visited. The service and attitude in this place that I experienced today was something that I have never come across in over 25 years of being in the service industry myself.

    So it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and my wife, my 12 year old son and myself had just left our family and decided to stop in to LT Burger to grab a quick bite before heading back to the city. We walked up to the girl who was hostessing to ask about a table, and after shooting us some major stink eye and basically sucking her teeth she told us it would be about 15 minutes. There was a family of 7 also waiting for a table in front of us, and while we were all sitting around with the cranky hostess I noticed 3 stools open at the bar area. I approached the bartender and asked if it was OK if we sat there. He looked over the bar and said (with a slight attitude) “if there’s 3 stools there”. There WERE 3 stools there, one of which was in front of the guy who was with the family of 7 that had been waiting up front with us. He was just standing there finishing up a beer while he waited for his own table.

    I asked him politely if he minded if we could use that stool so could sit there to eat (he wasn’t using the stool) and he said no problem at all, finished his beer, and went back to the front of the restaurant where his family was waiting. I called my wife and son over and as I did I noticed that as the bartender was putting the menus up on the bar, he was muttering under his breath “That was rude, that was rude”. I had NO idea what he was talking about. He said it again but louder so that the rest of the customers at the bar could hear him. and then once more smirking the whole time.

    My wife asked him if he was referring to ME. and this guy chuckled and said “yeah man. That was pretty rude” . I’m assuming because I asked the gentleman who was standing if we could sit there. Honestly, we were all in a little shock because we couldn’t imagine that he would be referring to ME. And when we found out he was being very serious we were, needless to say, blown away.

    Everyone on either side of us at the bar had seen what had happened and all seemed very sympathetic to our situation, which was nice, but pretty embarrassing. After repeatedly asking him which part of asking nicely (and someone agreeing nicely) to let us sit at the bar was rude, he (barely) apologized. I could not BELIEVE he had acted like that, not only in front of a crowded restaurant, but in front of my 12 year old son.

    We decided we weren’t hungry enough to put up with the attitude and gathered our things and walked out. On the way out the other family (including the gentleman who had given us the spot at the bar) wholeheartedly agreed that the staff were indeed rude and not very friendly (and of course he also told me I was not rude at all to him).

    Needless to say we will never be back again. I hope the management or owners get their act together fast. There is NO excuse to have people like that representing you at YOUR place of business.

    Not only have both my wife and myself been in the service industry for over 25 years, but we own 2 bars and a cafe in NYC and would NEVER have anyone working for us with that kind of attitude. Really quite unbelievable.

  2. Rivers says:

    My companion and I visited the restaurant on the same day as John Brien and although it was very crowded, we were lucky enough to get a table without much of a wait. Our waiter was affable enough but he was clearly stretched thin. The food was….. okay. The fries were tasty but limp and the burger was not cooked to my request of medium.

    The restaurant did offer some great people watching opportunities. For instance, the bitter and put out bus boy{?} was clearly upset that he was bussing tables and arguing with the hostess who refused to help while whining that she always helps.

    When the place is busy, prepare to wait silently for your check lest you receive an admonishment from the put out bus boy and the always helpful except for that day hostess. After receiving an eye roll from the bus boy, I was told by the ever helpful hostess that I would “just have to wait”.

    So, to break it down this restaurant had okay but overpriced food. One well meaning but harangued waiter. One terrible hostess with a persecution complex and one bus boy with a martyr complex.

    That pretty much sums up the place.

  3. Tommy noble says:

    If people weren’t such rude assholes they wouldn’t be treated as such. Customer or not. Have some manners for the people who are here to help and serve you. Thank you

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