Today’s Food Newsbits: Bruni’s Review Goes To Court, KFC Franchisees Sue Over Grilled Chicken

Oy! Sometimes you just never know when your writing may be called in for legal questioning! Such is the case of former New York Times restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni, who’s restaurant review and personal emails are now part of a wrongful termination lawsuit currently underway in New York.

According to Grub Street, Bruni’s communications regarding Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant were taken into consideration in the suit recently brought on by a former employee. Allegedly fired due to “not [being able to] perform her duties at a level befitting a three-star restaurant,” Tina Braunstein requested Bruni’s comments in his 2004 write-up noting her as a “superstar bartender” be considered evidence in the case.

However, when Bruni was subpoenaed to appear in court, the Times lawyer, George Freeman, argued that the staff at Blue Hill was aware of Bruni’s visit and therefore, Ms. Braunstein’s abilities would have been “artificially colored by that knowledge, and not be typical of her normal performance.”

Very interesting indeed.

In a struggle to continue restaurant growth, KFC has hit a few snags along the way. Between last year’s Oprah giveaway and United Nations fiascos (not to mention the current uproar over a recent Australian ad) the company’s evolution may seem a bit derailed. Unfortunately KFC’s problems continue, this time, as franchisee’s sue Yum Brands, KFC’s parent company, over the move to grilled chicken.

A group of KFC franchisees filed suit this week over the company’s greater focus on grilled chicken products. According to the suit, “the company appears to believe that the future of KFC lies with grilled chicken rather than fried Original Recipe or Extra Crispy chicken products.” Franchisees are dismayed at the increased marketing of grilled items, rather than the traditional crispy selection.

“We need both, but our fried is 80 percent of our business,” says [Jim Cocolin, second vice president of the Association of Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchisees]. “That kind of speaks for itself right now.”

The suit also alleges that under the leadership of Roger Eaton, who was tapped to lead the brand in 2008, KFC executives have disregarded the concerns of franchise owners. Despite the lawsuit, KFC appears unfazed by the falling-out.

“Yum Brands fully expects to win the suit and minimize the waste of time and money spent on it so that we can continue to satisfy our customers and grow the business,” said Jonathan Blum, a senior vice president at Yum.

~Jennifer Heigl

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