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Are Restaurant Copycat Lawsuits Worth the Trouble, Part II Restaurateurs Weigh In!

Here now, Danny Meyer and David Chang weigh-in on the topic of knockoff restaurants. Meyer has too many successful restaurants to count (7, plus two cafes and a catering business), Shake Shack among them, and Chang has the still-white-hot Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Noodle Bar. We asked each their position on having staffers defect to open competing restaurants, the subject of the lawsuit filed by Rebecca Charles against her former sous chef Ed MacFarland.

Danny Meyer, Shake Shack: "Shake Shack might be the millionth burger and shake stand to open in America and there will probably be as many more that will open in the future. Proud as I am of the work our team is doing there, it's just another iteration of an experience people have been enjoying for ages.

As is the case with any restaurant, it's ultimately the special alchemy that exists between the place's staff and its guests, as well as its location and context that makes one place taste and feel different from another. Best of all, more burger places means more people are enjoying burgers!"

Dave Chang & Joaquin Baca, Momofuku Ssam Bar: "At the end of the day you can't prevent piracy. But we don't think it really matters. Does anyone think that any of the Luger's clones are as tasty as the original? You can steal concepts, design and recipes, but it's near impossible to reproduce the execution of the original's food.

If someone wants to open Momofuku clones, we will happily provide all the necessary information, it's not that simple."
· Pearl v. Ed's: Is the Lawsuit Worth the Trouble? Restaurateurs Weigh In! [~E~]

Bonus: We'll note now that Steve Hanson declined to comment for this story. A restaurateur himself who has been accused of running derivative restaurants, he faces an interesting proposition in a few weeks, when his former Fiamma chef Micahel White takes over the kitchen at Alto. Will there be enough overlap to raise eyebrows? Here's what Michael White said:

“There are three or four items I plan to offer [at Alto] that are quite similar to dishes I cooked at Fiamma and at other restaurants I worked in before then. Candidly, if I didn’t put them on the menu, some of the customers that have been most loyal and supportive over the years would be pretty disappointed. While that’s a very flattering predicament, straight up menu rehashes just aren’t all that exciting to most chefs, or their patrons for that matter. In keeping with that--and the fact that my cooking continues to evolve--the balance of the menu, roughly 22+/- menu items, will be all new.”