A small-business owner in Warringah, NSW, has been drawn into a legal stoush with national burger chain Grill’d over store signage the company claims is confusing shoppers.
Adam Stratton owns five Tender Gourmet Butcher stores across the state, and tells SmartCompany he recently reopened one in the Westfield Warringah department store with the goal of providing customers with something different.
“We wanted to feature our butchering more, show how it goes from being fresh into being cooked,” he says.
The small-business owner set up a carvery and grill alongside his butcher, and adorned each section appropriately with neon red signs: one saying ‘carvery’ and the other ‘grill’.
“We got designers to come up with all the various bits and pieces, and I never thought there’d be any issue. ‘Grill’ is such a common word, it’s used by everyone,” he says.
However, about a week ago, Stratton received a legal letter from massive Australian burger chain Grill’d, claiming the sign was too similar to their own logo and was confusing shoppers.
Grill’d has more than 130 locations across the country, however, the closest location to Statton’s Westfield store is three kilometres away in Dee Why.
Statton says he’d been through an extensive process to get the sign approved by Westfield’s design team and building management, and the apparent similarities to Grill’ds logo had not been raised once during that process.
“The font’s in sync with our company logo, which is all in lowercase. The only thing I can see that kind-of resembles it is the letter ‘r’ and the colour,” he says.
“And when you’re ordering those illuminated lights, you’ve only got the choice of about three colours — red, white or blue.”
“I never would have gone through with the decision if I thought I was stepping on anyone’s toes.”
Grill’d has given the business two weeks to change the sign, and has offered to front the costs for changing it. However, Stratton notes the lengthy process for sign approval through the department store’s team will take longer than the two-week deadline.
Stratton has decided to not change the sign, saying he’s had a swell of support from local business owners and shoppers who’ve heard about the case.
“If I called my shop ‘Grill’, I could see how there would be an issue, but it’s a very common word used in the industry,” he says.
“I’m not out here to upset anyone.”
Stratton’s story is far from a rare one in the world of Australian small business, with ‘David vs Goliath’ cases between big businesses and small ones a dime a dozen.
A Sunshine Coast small-business owner was taken to task by beauty giant Estee Lauder, after the company claimed the business’ name, La Clinique, infringed on its copyright for its ‘Clinique’ beauty products.
“We had to do a full rebrand, we had no choice. We’re a really small business, and after I got the letter I called a friend of mine in advertising that pretty much told us to make it go away, and fast,” co-owner Angela Espie told SmartCompany at the time.
“So, we had to come up with $25,000 to do a full rebrand of our signage, flyers, website, everything. Just to change the business names alone cost us $2,500.
These cases flow both ways, however, with companies such as ALDI Australia accused of copying local designers, though small businesses rarely have much room for recourse in such cases.
Stratton says he’s felt “bullied” by Grill’d throughout the process, and questioned at times if he was the one in the wrong.
“I was struggling a bit with sleep for a few nights because I was wondering if I did the right or wrong thing,” he says.
“But they’re a restaurant, I’m a butcher. If you have an average level of intelligence you can see that we’re completely different shops.”
SmartCompany contacted Grill’d but did not receive a response prior to publication.