By Justin Franz, 2-20-12
||Caption: Wendy's restaurant on U.S. Highway 93 south of Whitefish. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
The grills at the Wendy's in Whitefish have been cold for the last few weeks after the fast food company forced the local franchise, and six others in Washington and Oregon, to temporarily close. According to Whitefish-based BZB Enterprises' attorney, Wendy's International inspectors found numerous health and quality issues at the restaurants, but added that the minor infractions were being corrected.
Attorney Jack Quatman is representing the local franchise and he said there was no timeline for the franchise to reopen but work to make improvements is underway.
According to an Associated Press story, the Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain requested an injunction against BZB Enterprises to stop using the Wendy's brand until corrections were made. Quatman said the company sent inspectors to review every store at once, 11 in all across the Northwest, and forced the franchises to temporarily shutdown. Quatman said there was never any threat to the public or food safety.
“They've never failed a county inspection,” he said. “They just got sideways with Wendy's.”
Quatman said many of the violations were minor. For example, Wendy's requires the temperature of walk-in freezers to be between 5 and 15 degrees, yet during the inspection one of the freezers was 19 degrees. In other instances, the company marked the franchise down for not having appropriate concrete pads at its drive through. Constructing the pads would be tough this time of year, Quatman said.
Quatman said making repairs has also been challenging because of a lack of parts. He said many of the supplies needed are built specifically for Wendy's and can’t just be purchased at the local hardware store. Currently, the owners are working on a few stores at a time and those in the Pasco, Wash., area have been a priority. Those shops remain open but are having repairs and improvements made at night. Getting every shop upgraded simultaneously would be nearly impossible for a small company, the attorney said.
“If you tell someone to do one thing, they can do it. If you tell them to do two or three things, sure. But if you hand them a list of 100 things to do on a timeline, that's when people tend to melt down,” Quatman said. “You just can't do that.”
Once repairs are completed at stores in the Pasco area, workers will move their focus to another group of shops, including Whitefish. Quatman said the franchise would also take its time to review each store. Although some, like the one in Whitefish, are profitable, more rural outposts are less successful and may never reopen.
Quatman said although the franchise and Wendy's have had a disagreement, both parties are invested in reopening the stores.
“Wendy's has been very helpful in getting parts and people here to help out and they're working with my clients very well,” he said.
Multiple messages left for Wendy's International and their representatives in Montana were not returned by press time.
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