You can't get a Frosty these days in Whitefish. The Wendy's franchise there, and five others in Montana, Oregon and Washington, closed last month because their owner, Havre-based BZB Enterprises, "got sideways," as BZB attorney Jack Quatman puts it, with Wendy's International.
Quatman means that Wendy's doesn't want BZB operating its restaurants anymore. Wendy's claimed in a federal lawsuit filed in January that BZB has "continuously ignored Wendy's directives and refused to comply with Wendy's critical, non-negotiable food safety standards," breaching the franchise agreement. The company is seeking an injunction to keep BZB from using its brand.
A Wendy's audit of the Whitefish store found a number of problems, not all of which related to food safety. Quatman says things like broken concrete in the drive-thru lane, the lack of a fence around the dumpster and cracked upholstery in the booths were among a "slew of complaints" at the Whitefish location.
It appears the situation was worse at BZB's Wendy's in Havre. Beginning in 2007, BZB became "increasingly operationally delinquent" at the Havre location, according to the lawsuit. A subsequent audit, in 2008, found 265 cleanliness and food safety problems there, such as dirty equipment and employees not washing their hands. The findings led to Wendy's scrutiny of BZB's 10 other Wendy's locations in the Northwest.
"Obviously, at the point that the lawsuit was filed a couple weeks ago, the people at Wendy's didn't feel the franchisee was being at all responsive to what they needed them to do, " Max Davis, the Great Falls-based attorney representing Wendy's, told the Havre Daily News this week.
Quatman says it was impossible for BZB to simultaneously address the problems at all six locations given their geographic layout.
BZB has until March to answer Wendy's complaint. "However, I don't believe there will ever need to be an answer," Quatman says. "We are working amicably with Wendy's. They have an interest in protecting their brand, and we have an interest in continuing to work with them."