Wendy's has a beef with Northwest franchisee

MATT VOLZ Associated Press Published:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Wendy's International has a beef with a franchisee that owns 11 fast-food restaurants in Montana, Oregon and Washington.

The Dublin, Ohio-based corporation last month asked a federal judge for an injunction to keep BZB Enterprises from using its brand.

Wendy's said in its Jan. 20 complaint that the Havre, Mont.-based franchisee has ignored demands to comply with Wendy's standards after food-safety concerns were raised at several of its restaurants.

Wendy's previously terminated the franchise agreements for six of the restaurants, but BZB Enterprises and the owners named in the lawsuit "boldly continue to operate the restaurants with complete disregard for the critical food safety concerns raised in the audits," the complaint reads.

For example, a 2008 audit of the Wendy's restaurant in Havre found 265 food safety issues ranging from unclean preparation equipment to employees not washing their hands. Another audit in 2010 found 111 deficiencies, most relating to cleanliness and food safety, which weren't corrected in follow-up audits, prompting Wendy's to terminate the franchise agreement in November.

The corporation said breaches of the franchise agreement were also found at Wendy's restaurants in Whitefish, Mont.; Pendleton, Ore.; Kennewick, Wash.; and two restaurants in Yakima, Wash.

BZB Enterprises attorney John Quatman, of Whitefish, said Friday that the restaurants' owners are working with Wendy's and hope to have the matter resolved before U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon, of Great Falls, has to rule on the injunction request.

"Wendy's has a brand and it's a brand they want to protect. They want all their shops to be shining stars, so they can compete with other fast-food franchises, and that's what we're striving to do," Quatman said.

BZB Enterprises has closed all six of the restaurants cited by the corporation in the complaint, plus one in Walla Walla, Wash. Quatman said BZB Enterprises will determine which of those restaurants will remain closed for good and which will reopen and then work with Wendy's to renovate them one by one.

There are a lot of items that need to be repaired, but all the issues raised by Wendy's inspectors in their audits will be addressed, Quatman said.

The franchisee's four other restaurants -- in Richland, Wash.; Pasco, Wash.; Lagrande, Ore.; and another one in Kennewick -- will remain open while renovations are being made, he said.

BZB Enterprises must respond to Wendy's injunction request by March, but Quatman said he believes the issue will be resolved by then.

Wendy's Montana attorney, Jeffry Foster, was in court Friday and did not return a message for comment.