In 2018, Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. CEO Mohammad Hobab was lavished with armloads of business awards, $2.3M in SBA guaranteed funding and lots of great press. 2 years later, the accolades have ceased, growth has stalled and new court documents reveal a very different picture of the Iranian-born businessman.
(UnhappyFranchisee.Com) In 2018, Fresno SBA District Director, Dawn Golik called Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. (DDFI) CEO Mohammad Hobab “… an inspiring example of the American dream of owning a small business” and named him “2018 Small Business Person of the Year for Central California”
However, Hobab’s image of benevolent job creator is being replaced by that of a headstrong tyrant whose instinct is to destroy anyone who disagrees with his questionable business decisions.
His son Hadi’s opposition to Mohammad’s plan to force Deli Delicious franchisees to replace fresh-baked bread with frozen loaves in order increase his personal wealth resulted in Hadi’s ouster from the company and estrangement from his mother and brothers. His father later used the financial and legal might of DDFI to sue his Hadi for defamation, despite the fact that Hadi had actually founded the chain.
In another attack on those who are fighting to save the Deli Delicious brand, Mohammad Hobab’s DDFI is suing a two-unit highly successful and popular franchisee for refusing to discontinue the fresh-baked bread the company served for more than 20 years. In that suit, Deli Delicious Franchising, Inc. v. Akoo Inc., Mohammad Hobab’s attorney David Schneider of Dowling Aaron forgot to submit a proposed protective order for the court’s review, resulting in the judge’s order to make public certain documents DDFI preferred to remain private.
Three such deposition documents confirm a story widely circulated within the Deli Delicious franchise community that CEO Mohammad Hobab threatened, among other things too vulgar to share, to “cut off the balls” of a respected franchisee, to kill him and to have his entire family deported back to Iran.
Mohammad Hobab Threatened to Cut Off a Franchisees Testicles, Kill Him and Deport His Family to Iran
According to sworn depositions, Mohammad Hobab had defied the wishes of the DDFI board and proceeded, in secret, with the $2M development of the commercial DD’s Bakery owned by him and Ali Nekumanesh.
Success of the bakery venture was entirely dependent on forcing the franchisees of the then 53-unit chain to discontinue purchasing bread baked and delivered fresh daily from Basque French Bakery, as they had for 20 years.
Franchisees balked at being told to start serving frozen and thawed bread that not only was lower in quality, but resulted in higher labor and storage costs.
They formed a franchisee association and started pushing back.
By mid-summer 2019, with both sides reaching their boiling point, there was a meeting between franchisees and DDFI at the corporate office.
This account by an anonymous attendee has been circulating since the meeting:
On July 3rd 2019, there was a meeting at the D.D.F.I. corporate office. In attendance were several franchisees of Deli Delicious as well as D.D.F.I.’s management. The business owners were told that the meeting was designed to better the relationship between the franchisees and the franchisor.
Shortly after the meeting began, Mohammed Hobab, the owner/founder/CEO/president and chairman of the board of Deli Delicious Franchise Inc., lost all control of himself and exhibited behavior that is totally void of any expected business decorum.
During a verbal exchange between a franchisee and the D.D.F.I. management, Mohammad (who speaks very limited English) violently struck the table top with his fist while shouting “no bullshit, no bullshit”! He then turned his out-of-control rage towards one of the franchisees and continued to shout at the franchisee in his native language (Farsi) and said that he (the franchisee) was the person responsible for the creation of the Franchisee Association (D.D.F.A.) and that he was the root of all the problems, and that he was feeding the franchisees false information.
Mohammed then stormed out of room leaving the franchisees and the D.D.F.I. management stunned by his unprofessional behavior. It should be noted that none of the D.D.F.I. leadership made any comment or offered an apology to those in the meeting. It is also important to note that there were other Farsi speaking individuals in the room and they didn’t rebut anything that was translated to the non-Farsi speaking guests.
Shortly after Mohammad Hobab departed the meeting, the franchisee who was verbally attacked by Mohammad Hobab became deeply disturbed, and chose to leave the meeting. That is when he again encountered Mohammed Hobab outside the Deli Delicious office building smoking a cigarette. It was then the owner/founder/CEO/president and chairman of the board Mohammad Hobab again began to verbally attack the same franchisee.
Mohammad began by insulting the franchisee’s affiliation with D.D.F.A.. He continued to express that he was going to cut off the franchisee’s “balls” (testicles). He went on to repeatedly say that he was going to ruin the franchisee’s life and he said he was going ruin the franchisee’s business. Hobab continued to state that with his power he can destroy the franchisee’s business. And once he destroys the franchisee’s business, he would have the franchisee and his family deported to Iran. It was then when Mohamad Hobab in a greatly elevated voice repeatedly threaten to kill the franchisee.
No one other than Mohammad Hobab and the franchisee directly heard the CEO’s angry threats, which were spoken in Farsi (Persian) which both spoke.
Until the recent release of the depositions of former Deli Delicious Regional Vice President Foad Saffarzadeh and Executive Vice President Ali Nekumanesh, the incident had not been confirmed in an official setting nor sworn under oath.
Former Deli Delicious VP Foad Saffarzadeh Confirms Mohammad Hobab’s Threats and Motivation
In a sworn deposition , former Deli Delicious Regional Vice President Foad Saffarzadeh (also a Farsi speaker) stated, under oath, that Mohammad Hobab had confirmed to him that he had made these threats to “put [the franchisee] back in his place.” In this deposition, he is questioned by Defendant’s attorney H. Ty Kharazi:
I remember we had a meeting with Mr. Hobab present, Nathan Gilbert, and about five, six franchisees from DDFA.· And one of the franchisees named Eric Shaw was questioning that the marketing — poor marketing by DDFI. And Nate Gilbert responded to him and disagreed with him. And then Eric Shaw turned — called — said, “BS,” so BS, that’s not true.
Mr. Hobab was sitting across the table from Eric.· He pounded on the table and he says, “No BS. No BS,” and then he turns around to [the franchisee] and blames him for it. So I didn’t get why that happened.
Q. Did you see or hear Mr. Mohammad Hobab saying that he was going to castrate [the franchisee]?
A. [the franchisee] came back pale, you know. I mean, he said that he — back at the meeting he said what Mr. Hobab told him. And then I went outside and, you know, I asked Mr. Hobab, you know, “What happened? Did you tell him that?”
He goes, “Yeah. It was time for me to put him back in his place.”
Q. So Mohammad Hobab — I’m sorry.· Go ahead. I apologize.
A. Yeah.· He just said it was time for him to – I told him that, and it was time for him — “It was time for me to put him back in place.”
Q. Did Mohammad Hobab confirm that he told – he threatened [the franchisee] with castration?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. Did Mohammad Hobab appear to be vulgar?· Do you know what that means?
A. Yes. He was angry.
Q.· Did [the franchisee] in any way act unprofessional?
A. No, he did not.
Q. Isn’t it true that in that meeting he referred to Mr. Hobab as Mr. Hobab?
Q. Do you believe Mr. Hobab was trying to intimidate [the franchisee]?
A. I believe so.
Q. Did Mr. Hobab threaten [the franchisee] with his immigration status if he didn’t play ball?
A. Well, he told me he did.· Yes.
Q. Mr. Hobab said that?
A. Yes.· Let me correct myself.· I don’t remember if I heard that from him or [the franchisee], so I just want to make sure that I make that clear.
Q.· Did you confirm with Nate Gilbert that — who was in that meeting, if he heard those words?
A. Yeah.· The next day.· We were talking about the conversation.
Q. Was Nate Gilbert the note taker in that meeting?
A. He’s note taker for many meetings, yes.
Q. Do you know if you asked Nate Gilbert — do you recall if you asked Nate Gilbert, “Did you take note of that exchange?”
A. Yes, I did.· And he said that he was a note taker in the meeting and he didn’t hear that.
Q. He did not hear that?
A. Yeah.· He said, “I was taking notes.· I did not hear that.”· And I looked at him.· I didn’t know what to tell him.
Q. Is that one of those, “I didn’t hear that,” like I don’t want to hear it.· Putting your hands over your
A. No.· It’s, “I didn’t hear that because I don’t want to bring it up.”
Q. Okay.· He just didn’t want to memorialize that; is that correct?
APPEARING REMOTELY FROM LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, AUGUST 19, 2020
Ali Nekumanesh States Mohammad Hobab Didn’t Deny Threatening the Franchisee
Deli Delicious EVP Ali Nekumanesh, close friend and business partner of Mohammad Hobab was also asked about the incident.
Q. Did you hear that Mr. Hobab threatened [the franchisee] that he was going to castrate him?
A.· [the franchisee] said that to me, yes.
Q.· Did you ever tell Mr. Hobab that that’s the rumors out there, that you are bullying people, cussing at them, or threatening them; did you ever discuss that with them?
A. I didn’t say the words that you are using, with all due respect to you. I did tell him that [the franchisee] saw me at Sam’s Club, I was with my wife, and that he said that Mohammad had said that. I told him,
I said, I am dumbfounded because I have never found Mohammad to be — ever to get himself to that level, and that I will let him know what you said. And I told Mohammad that, and Mohammad just shook his head, and didn’t say anything.
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