Celebrity UK Chef Sues Chipotle over Ramen-Noodle Chain-Restaurant Concept
Chef Kyle Connaughton, who has “been employed by some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world,” co-authored books and co presented on United Kingdom (U.K.) TV programs, has sued Chipotle Mexican Grill and its CEO, claiming that he was hired to developed a ramen-noodle fast-food restaurant concept that was doomed to fail because someone else had already created the concept in the context of a confidential business deal with Chipotle that did not come to fruition. Connaughton v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No. 155106/2013 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., filed June 3, 2013).
Connaughton allegedly developed the business plan and concept from 2010-2012 in close collaboration with Chipotle employees. Connaughton later learned on meeting with Momofuku’s Noodle Bar chief marketing officer that Momofuku would sue Chipotle when its ramen restaurant opened because owner David Chang had developed the same concept for Chipotle in 2008. Because Chang could not come to terms with Chipotle owner Stephen Ells, Chang did not authorize any use of his confidential work and refused to nullify a nondisclosure agreement.
Contending that “the information communicated by Chipotle staff to Mr. Connaughton was information communicated to Chipotle by Momofuku,” Connaughton claims that implementation of his ramen concept would violate the nondisclosure agreement and he would be accused of stealing Chang’s concept thus ruining “his professional reputation.” According to the complaint, Ells fired Connaughton after a confrontation about the pre-existing ramen-noodle business dealings and purported fraud. Connaughton seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the defendants’ alleged fraudulent inducement of his employment and unjust enrichment.