MIAMI The operators of 57 franchised Burger Kings in South Florida said they have have sued the chain’s franchisor over a requirement that units extend their hours of operation. The suit, filed here yesterday, alleges that the policy could subject the plaintiffs to severe economic hardship.
It also asserts that employees and customers could be put at significant risk by operating late at night or early in the morning. .
The later closings were mandated in 2007, according to the filing. Burger King updated the policy in May to require that franchises remain open as late as 2 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday nights..
"Burger King Corp. is confident that it has the right to set required hours of operation under its franchise agreement," the franchisor said in a statement released Wednesday night. "We are requiring U.S. Burger King restaurants to extend their hours of operation in-line with their local competitors. These extended hours will enable us to effectively compete in the quick service restaurant industry." The statement also asserted that all 850 franchisor-operated domestic units and "the vast majority of our 6,350 franchised restaurants" are already keeping their doors open longer in compliance with the policy.
The company declined further commenting, noting that it had not been formally served with a lawsuit as of the time the statement was issued.
Burger King has not been alone in extending its hours. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Jack in the Box, to name a few, have also pushed back closing times. A number of concepts keep only their drive-thrus open after certain hours.
According to the plaintiffs, Burger King sent them a letter on July 3, demanding that they adhere to the so-called competitive hours policy. If the franchisees did not comply within five days, they would be considered in default of their contracts with the franchisor, according to the plaintiff’s attorney, Robert Zarco.
None of the plaintiffs, including Ramalco Corp., Southern Management Corp., Tri-Management Co. and Furman’s Inc., are complying with the policy, said Zarco.
The suit contends there is a relationship between violent crime and late night or early morning service, citing several violent employee deaths at various Burger King locations around the country.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that the results of the competitive hours program is economically disastrous for franchisees. Sales have sometimes fallen below $5 between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., the action asserts.
Zarco said the plaintiffs simply want Burger King to make the extended hours policy a recommendation, not a mandate.
“McDonald’s does it this way,” he said.