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California-Based Burger Chain Sued for Allegedly Duping Franchisees Out of Millions

And don’t panic — Jollibee is still coming to San Francisco

An overhead view of trays of burgers, fries, and onion rings. BurgerIM

California-based burger chain Burgerim — which has three locations around the Bay Area, according to the company’s website — is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly duping some 1,500 franchisees out of tens of millions of dollars. Per a Mercury News report, the federal lawsuit alleges the company and its owner Oren Loni convinced hundreds of would-be burger restaurant owners to pay $50,000 to $70,000 for the opportunity to own a Burgerim location by severely downplaying how challenging it is to actually open and operate a restaurant.

According to the Mercury News, Loni failed to tell aspiring restaurateurs about the many startup costs associated with getting a restaurant off the ground including “securing a location, construction of the restaurant, equipment, and obtaining products and supplies,” all of which can cost an additional $600,000, the lawsuit says. And despite telling franchisees that he would refund their fees if they weren’t able to find a location or get the necessary financing to open, in many cases Loni refused to do so, according to the report.

While the numerous and costly hurdles business owners must overcome before opening the doors to a new restaurant are familiar to those in the industry, the lawsuit alleges that Loni took advantage of some franchisees’ knowledge gap, assuring even those with no prior experience could own and operate a successful restaurant. “Burgerim promised consumers, including veterans, the American dream, only to leave them in a nightmare of debt and deceit,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. [Mercury News]

Don’t worry: Jollibee is still coming to San Francisco

Despite concern on social media, the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed earlier this week that Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee still plans to open its first San Francisco outpost sometime next year. Fans were concerned about the future of the location just outside the Powell St. BART station after a “coming soon” sign abruptly disappeared. [Chronicle]

Downtown San Francisco recovery continues to lag

In a bleak report from the San Francisco Business Times, San Francisco Chief Economist Ted Egan told city officials downtown is still “essentially in the place we were a year ago.” While other major cities have seen between 25 to 45 percent of workers return to downtown offices, less than 20 percent of workers are back in downtown San Francisco’s many office towers. [SF Business Times]

Longtime San Francisco chef retreats into the woods

Cue Sondheim: Staffan Terje, who opened Perbacco in 2006 with co-owner Umberto Gibin and later expanded with Barbacco next door, is pulling a Nicholas Cage in Pig. He’s stepping back from the restaurants, moving up north, and taking over a mushroom business. The Chronicle has a full interview with the chef. [Chronicle]

‘Trash pie’ business seeks investors

Shuggie’s, the upcoming pizzeria that will use “upcycled” ingredients on its pies, is looking for investors. A post on Instagram says if you’re interested in backing the business’ future Mission location, just email nopineapple@shuggiespizza.com.

Limited-edition tote celebrates legacy Asian bakery

Cut Fruit Collective, a Bay Area arts nonprofit dedicated to uplifting AAPI communities, has teamed up with legacy Asian bakery Sheng Kee to produce a limited edition tote designed by San Francisco-based Taiwanese American artist Fanny Luor. They’ll be available for purchase at Sheng Kee’s flagship store in the Sunset starting Saturday, February 12.

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