Is Culver’s racist? Is the popular Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin-based franchisor intentionally depriving minorities from clogging their arteries with bacon Butterburgers and fried cheese curds in their very own neighborhoods? A federal judge has definitively declared: Maybe!
(UnhappyFranchisee.Com) Our friends over at We Are Main Street (WeAreMainSt.org), a website featuring news, commentary and original research about the franchise system in the United States, have provided an update on franchisee Michael Wilbern’s racial discrimination lawsuit against the Culver’s franchise organization.
We first reported on this in 2013(CULVER’S Franchise Accused of Racism)
Wilbern is a franchisee whose requests to open Culver’s locations on Chicago’s South Side have been allegedly denied by the franchisor.
The WeAreMainSt.org post “Judge finds evidence Culver’s discriminated against franchisee” (reprinted, with permission, below), states that a federal just has found enough evidence of discrimination by the Wisconsin-based fast food company (which refers to its restaurants as “The Home of the Butterburger”) to allow the suit to proceed to trial.
We are conflicted about this case. On the one hand, we firmly believe that access to Butterburgers and deep-fried cheese curds are constitutionally protected and inalienable rights (under the “Pursuit of Happiness” section).
On the other hand, Culver’s, not Wilbern, may actually be the party who is looking out for the well-being of the African-American population, considering:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African Americans
- African American men are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white males.
- Blacks are 1.5 times more likely to contract diabetes than Whites
- African Americans have the highest rates of obesity
- African Americans have a 51% higher prevalence of obesity compared with Whites
- Source: NAACP website
Here’s the news from Main Street:
Judge finds evidence Culver’s discriminated against franchisee
Posted on October 21, 2015 by: Staff
A federal judge has denied burger and frozen custard chain Culver’s motion to throw out a case brought by a franchisee, holding that there is sufficient evidence of intentional discrimination that the case should proceed to trial. Michael Wilbern, one of Culver’s first African-American franchisees, alleges in the lawsuit that the chain stopped him from opening stores in majority African-American neighborhoods and impeded his ability to operate the store Culver’s did let him open in a mostly white suburb.
Wilbern contends that from 2003 to 2012 he repeatedly tried to open a Culver’s on Chicago’s predominantly black South Side. Wilbern charges Culver’s “denied those locations every time” even though local officials offered him tax breaks to open there. Instead, Wilbern claims, Culver’s steered him to a site in suburban Franklin Park.
Wilbern charges that the “overwhelming majority” of Culver’s restaurants are located in areas where African Americans are in the minority.
The Chicago Tribune explains:
Wilbern, who previously managed a dozen KFC restaurants in Wisconsin, went along with that offer because he wanted to build a relationship with Culver’s, the suit says. But the location failed because he was encouraged by Culver’s to pay higher than market-rate rent for a lease on the restaurant, he says.
Culver’s also allowed two other franchisees to “cannibalize” Wilbern’s sales by opening Culver’s restaurants in [nearby] Rosemont and Lyons, and refusing him permission to increase prices to cover the lease, contrary to its usual practice. One of the franchisees — a white man — took over the Franklin Park restaurant when Wilbern was forced into bankruptcy, the suit says.
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