SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) - A restaurant management company claims in court the former owners of two popular South African eateries it bought gave their "secret" recipes to a competitor, breaching the purchase contract.
In a lawsuit filed in Chatham County Superior Court, plaintiff Z3 Management says it purchased Gabriella and John DeBeer's ownership interest in the Zunzi's 1 and Zunzi's 2 restaurants in 2015, and, after consolidating them, has operated a restaurant under the "Zunzi's name ever since.
"Plaintiff purchased the Assets with the goal of making the Zunzi's brand a nationwide, or even global brand. The value of the Assets, specifically the recipes, is a result of their uniqueness, and not being known by the public," the complaint says.
Z3 Management says it made an initial $450,000 payment for the restaurants and agreed to pay the couple a royalty of one percent of annual gross sales through 2025.
However, the management firm says it has since learned the DeBeers gave their proprietary recipes to defendant Mary Catherine Bruce, owner of owner of defendant restaurant Maxwell's and defendant 9 Drayton, and have gone into business with her.
"On January 13, 2016, the restaurant located at 9 Drayton Street, Savannah, Georgia, Z2, which was operating pursuant to the limited license, ceased its operations as Z2," the complaint states. "The restaurant located at 9 Drayton Street is no longer operating solely as 'Z2'... Defendant 9 Drayton is being advertised as a partnership between Defendant Maxwell's and Defendant Z2."
Z3 Management claims 9 Drayton "makes, sells, and serves Zunzi's food items ... In order to prepare the Zunzi's food and sauces, the recipes were disclosed to, and are now known by, unauthorized individuals, including but not limited to Defendant Ms. Bruce."
Mary Catherine Bruce told Courthouse News she did not want to comment on the litigation - she says the case is really about Z1 and Z2, and that she's more like an innocent bystander.
"Defendants' fraudulent intent is further evidenced by their representations to the public that the food is still the same Zunzi's food while at the same time misrepresenting to the Plaintiff that they are no longer serving Zunzi's food," the complaint says.
Z3 Management seeks a permanent injunction and restraining order requiring the defendants to cease any further competition with the plaintiff by operating a restaurant using the Zunzi's recipes or Zunzi's food. The plaintiff also seeks punitive damages.
William Hunter of Oliver Maner LLP in Savannah represents the plaintiff and did not respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.
The DeBeers could not be reached for comment.