Franchisees sue Raving Brands over Moe's deals

LOS ANGELES Three former franchisees of Moe's Southwest Grill are seeking $3.9 million in damages from the fast-casual chain's Atlanta-based franchisor, Raving Brands, for alleged fraud, violations of state franchise investment laws and unlawful trade practices.

The charges were leveled in a lawsuit filed by the three southern California franchisees. In a separate lawsuit filed last year, the all-franchise Raving Brands was also accused of misrepresentation and breach of contract involving more than 40 franchisees of the company's Mama Fu's Noodle House brand in six states. That litigation is still pending.

The plaintiffs in southern California are K&A Ventures LLC, owned by Keith and Larry Franklin, and single-unit operators Norman Kaplan and Douglas Wall. The group at one point collectively operated four restaurants. All four are now closed. They are seeking compensation for fees and commissions as well as punitive damages.

Stephen LaMastra, Raving Brands president and chief operating officer, said company policy prohibits comment on pending litigation.

In addition to Moe's, Raving's 300-plus-unit flagship burrito brand, and Mama Fu's, the franchisor's concepts include Monkey Joe's, PJ's Coffee, Flying Biscuit, Planet Smoothie, Boneheads Grilled Fish and Piri Piri Chicken, Doc Green's Gourmet Salads and Shane's Rib Shack.