Is it ethical for a restaurant owner to purchase food from a different restaurant and pass it off as their own to unsuspecting customers? Is it legal? Or does none of that matter when said food is Popeye's delicious spicy chicken tenders?
"Stay local, be happy and always, eat well!" [sic] is the motto of Sweet Dixie Kitchen, located in Long Beach, California, which was recently busted by an eagle-eyed customer for not exactly staying local - unless you consider the Popeyes down the street " local." The Southern-inspired restaurant, which specializes in biscuit sandwiches, was called out on Yelp by a customer who's noticed an employee smuggling two large boxes of Popeyes into the kitchen; he then confirmed with his server that the fried chicken served by the restaurant was indeed from Popeyes.
The restaurant's owner, Kimberly Sanchez, responded to the Yelp review (and several others that soon followed) by claiming that there's nothing wrong with buying fried chicken from Popeyes and reselling it, comparing it to buying, say, vegetables and flour from outside vendors.
She also took to Facebook, posting a long missive justifying her actions.
As word has started to make the rounds, lots of angry diners have taken to the restaurant's Yelp page (which is now "being monitored by Yelp's Support team for content related to media reports"), leaving one-star reviews. One said he felt "cheated and scammed," another called it "plain laziness and greed," and another pointed out that "buying food from a local artisan and reselling with their permission is not the same as buying fast food and reselling it at a premium," and took the opportunity to point out that "the majority of the chicken sold at Popeyes comes from Case Foods, which has a long history of exploiting workers and the chickens they kill." One regular left five stars, however, claiming "I don't care where the chicken comes from, this place is so surprisingly good."
Even though Sanchez might think that buying and reselling chicken from Popeyes is the same as buying sausage or pie crusts from Sysco, there's actually a big difference. For one, Sysco knows how to package and ship its foods so it stays out of "the danger zone," the temperature at which foodborne pathogens multiply. Two, the tenders (which are served on a biscuit or a waffle) are sold at a major markup at Sweet Dixie Kitchen. And three, we can't imagine that the folks at Popeyes are too pleased to learn about this, so we imagine Sanchez will be receiving a cease-and-desist letter soon.
Even though the Popeyes chicken was just one component of a couple menu items (thankfully, it's not a fried chicken place trying to pass it off as their own), it's still, at the minimum, very poor form.