What the fudd is up with Fuddruckers?
Regular Hot Dish reader and Fuddruckers fan Sam sounded the alarm last week when he noticed the always-busy burger joints seemed to be disappearing. The Bloomington and St. Louis Park locations had replaced their bright yellow signs with a simple "Lunch Special: burger, fries, soda, $7.99" while the Maple Grove and Eden Prairie locations have closed entirely. Head to the Fuddruckers website and the state has been wiped clean off the map.
The world's greatest?
What. The. Hell.
Fuddruckers declared bankruptcy in April, but was bought for $61 million cash by Luby's - a Texas company that began with a simple chain of cafeterias - which means the 60 company-owned and 138-or-so franchises should be in the clear. A call to the St. Louis Park and Bloomington stores, which are now going by "R.J.'s Burgers," had an employee stating, "We're the same thing, all the items are comparable to Fuddruckers." When asked what happened to the franchise and whether it would be returning, the employee said it was "hard to say."
Headquarters seems to have a different view. The franchises in question are owned by Ralph Flannery, who was appointed COO in 2007 (a position he no longer holds) when he was Fuddruckers largest and one of its longest-tenured franchisees -- dude was even "franchisee of the year" at one point. So how did things go south? In response to inquiries, Luby's offered this terse explanation:
With regard to St. Louis Park and Bloomington: The previous owner of Fuddruckers terminated the management agreement with Mr. Flannery that allowed him to operate these units on behalf of the Company and use the premises. However Mr. Flannery refuses to turn over the restaurants. Accordingly, the matter is in litigation. Mr. Flannery is not authorized to use the Fuddruckers marks or occupy the premises.
With regard to Maple Grove: The previous owner of Fuddruckers terminated the management agreement that allowed Mr. Flannery to operate a Fuddruckers restaurant at the Maple Grove location and he is no longer' authorized to use the Fuddruckers marks.
Yikes. Has anyone been to the new R.J.'s Burgers? Are they serving "the world's greatest hamburger" like Fuddruckers formerly claimed? Will you miss Fuddruckers? Can you form a support group with Sam?