At this point, the franchise industry is used to some brand-on-brand ribbing. We watch with bated breath for the next clapback from Arby’s or Wendy’s on Twitter.
Cheba Hut, however, spared the niceties and the corporate speak, calling Quiznos “bandwagon douchebags”—even putting it on a restaurant sign. The beef started over Quiznos' announcement to unveil a new Magic Mushroom Melt, a limited time vegetarian mushroom sandwich on “tie-dyed white bread.”
The sandwich was a little too close to the 28-location Cheba Hut’s longtime Magic Mushroom toasted sub for Scott Jennings, founder and CEO of Cheba Hut.
“It’s our exact sandwich, it’s a great sandwich we had, and we had some confusion of people calling in asking if we we’re doing this promo. So we had to do something,” said Jennings.
So with the help of DrummLaw, Jennings sent over a tersely worded cease-and-desist letter that alleged trademark infringement the day before the one-day promotion was to be held.
“Cheba Hut demands that you immediately cease and desist from any planned and/or existing use of “Magic Mushroom Melt” or any similarly confusing words or logos, including but not limited to the Infringing Use. Cheba Hut also demands a public apology,” read the letter.
It didn’t mince words, but when it was delivered by a stripper gram wearing a police uniform, things got a little silly.
Jennings said he and the company were able to have some fun with it, but the promotion was still irksome when brands attempt to co-opt the stoner-culture branding at the core of Cheba Hut.
“We’ve got a lot of people jumping on the old bandwagon here,” Jennings told Franchise Times. “That’s what irks me, this is not a niche for us. We were proving a point back in the day—it wasn’t a hook, it was the bonus. I liked to get that out there, we’re serious about our food and our culture.”
Quiznos responded with a pun-filled letter, as follows:
Dear Cheba Hut,
Thank you for your letter. We would be remiss in not tipping our white button caps to you, the attention has indeed been quite a trip. In having a bit of lighthearted sandwich fun, we, of course, had no intention of being poor spores. Lest this mushroom into menu madness, our gooey and groovy melt will become merely a psychedelic dream after 9pm tomorrow, as planned.
Thank you also for your “gift” of the adult performer dressed as a police officer you generously sent our way. As it happens, today’s developments have put us in a giving mood as well. We will be donating all proceeds from tomorrow’s special event at our 1275 Grant Street location in Denver to the Food Bank of the Rockies. We hope you’ll do the same and invite you to join us for a mellowed-out bite.
Here’s to keeping it tasteful and fun, guy.
The response, of course, was delivered by a singing sandwich.
“They kind of clapped back with a singing sandwich guy. They came over to our restaurant, so it was a little bit of fun back and forth,” said Jennings, who clearly dialed down the rhetoric from that initial “bandwagon bastards” comment.
He said since the sandwich was only a one-day event, he’s not going to pursue real legal action. But he said he’s not going to quietly watch brands jump on the marijuana subculture without a jab here and there, legally if need be.
“My ideal outcome would just to put people on notice, I know we can’t lock down the green wave, everyone is going to get on. But we’re putting people on notice that if you’re a faker or a trend jumper, we’ll put you on notice and we’ll poke you,” said Jennings. “And we are serious when it comes to our business model, so if you come after our name or how we do a sandwich, we’ll clap back.”
Quiznos Magic Mushroom Melt was featured on June 22 at a single Denver, Colorado, location.