Best Lawsuit Ever
I am tickled pink by one of today's articles in the Boston Globe. This article touches on two of my very favorite topics: food and the law. Evidently, a Panera Bread Co. franchise out in Shrewsbury, MA had a lease with the owners of their shopping center. The lease contained an exclusivity clause that said that the shopping center wouldn't rent out space to any other "sandwich shop." This summer, the shopping center owners started negotiations to lease space to a Qdoba Mexican Grill franchise. Panera pitched a fit because they said this would violate the exclusivity clause. The shopping center landlords filed a suit with the court trying to get a court order declaring that leasing space to Qdoba wouldn't violate their lease with Panera. Panera counter-claimed trying to stop Qdoba from moving into the shopping center.
The absolute best part of this case is that the entire lawsuit turned upon the definition of "sandwich." Panera claimed that Qdoba's burritos fell under the category of "sandwiches" and thus violated the exclusivity clause of their lease, while Qdoba argued that a burrito is, in fact, not a sandwich and that Qdoba could therefore exist in the same shopping center as Panera.
Tons of experts testified in this case. Chris Schlesinger, a former USDA official, was quoted as saying in his affidavit, "I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich... Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian." Qdoba's lawyer quoted to the Webster's definition of "sandwich" and distinguished the sandwich's two slices of bread from the burrito's single tortilla. The Qdoba team even turned to the origins of each food, claiming that sandwiches are of European descent, while burritos are specific to Mexico.
This is all clearly preposterous, but I love it. This is what the law is all about... making silly distinctions between various things that may or may not be similar, just to prove your own point. Clearly, foodies are going to laugh about this (a judge deciding whether a burrito is a sandwich?), but we'll also smile to ourselves and think, well, obviously a burrito is not a sandwich. Duh!
In case you're wondering about the outcome, Worcester Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that a burrito is not a sandwich, and since Panera failed to include burritos in its "sandwich shop" exclusivity clause, Qdoba was free to move into the shopping center. Thanks, Judge Locke, for clearing that up!