Sunday, February 19, 2012

In-N-Out, Shanghai Style

California's iconic In-N-Out Burger has found that software, DVDs, and designer purses are not the only things that get copied in China.  A new restaurant in Shanghai called CaliBurger was recently forced to change some of the names of items on its menu.  The double cheeseburger has gone from being called the "Double-Double," which is In-N-Out's name, to the "Cali Double."  "Animal Style" fries, In-N-Out's name (and, for a time, CaliBurger's name) for french fries topped with cheese and special sauce, is now "Wild Style" fries on the CaliBurger menu.

How did In-N-Out manage to get a restaurant in China to respect its trademarks?  It turns out that CaliBurger is American-owned and based in Southern California, just like In-N-Out.  That made it much easier for In-N-Out to initiate the lawsuit that prompted CaliBurger to settle the case and give up the names "borrowed" from In-N-Out.

But--those of you who are familiar with In-N-Out Burger's products--take a look at CaliBurger's food.  It appears there's still more than a mere homage to In-N-Out Burger in what CaliBurger is offering.  Could it be because CaliBurger's chef de cuisine, Jonathan Wong, is a former In-N-Out restaurant manager?

On the other hand, you can't get your vanilla shake at In-N-Out spiked with bourbon the way you can at CaliBurger.

As Cheryl Hung, an American in Shanghai, put it, "It's China.  Anywhere else and I'd be surprised by a rip-off."  Indeed.  China, after all, is the home of Pizza Huh, Dairy Fairy, and lots of fried chicken restaurants with three-letter names.