last year’s trademark beef between rival San Antonio burger spots, local favorite Papa’s Burgers has been dragged into a new name-based burger brawl.
Robert Walker, owner of nationally recognized Papa's Burgers, said via Facebook Monday that he'd received a cease-and-desist letter from Houston's Pappas Restaurants empire demanding that his two San Antonio spots "immediately transition away" from their longtime name. The letter also demanded that he change his business' logo and associated colors.
“We’ve been very blessed and are looking to expand to a few more locations, so in preparation for that, we looked to trademark our name. It turns out that the Pappas family had trademarked the [Pappas Burger] name back in 2008, so I was advised to either try to fight for the name or reach out to them,” Walker told the Current.
Yes, that's the same Pappas family whose holdings also include Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen, Pappasito's Cantina and Pappas Bar-B-Q. The group's eight restaurant chains operate dozens of properties spread across Texas and seven other states but only run two Houston-based eateries under the Pappas Burger flag.
The Current reached out to the Pappas family but hadn't heard back at press time.
“They’re in the Houston market, we’re here in San Antonio, maybe there’s something we can come up with to work together," Walker said, explaining the step that he maintains escalated the dispute. "Out of reverence, I made a humbling request, asking them if we could continue to use the name without the worry of them doing exactly what they ended up doing."
Walker reached out to Pappas Restaurants and spoke with its general counsel, who asked him to provide his request in writing. Before Walker could produce a written statement, he was slapped with the legal order, he said.
“Out of left field, I received a letter that said the owner would not, at this time, give consent. And that we are to immediately cease using the name Papa’s Burgers. This was their warning shot, I guess,” Walker said. “They reached out via mail about marketing, and people confusing our places — and to be honest with you, we’ve won a lot of awards… There’s a value proposition there. I’m sure they have customers walking into their restaurants asking if they’re the fourth-best burger in the U.S.”
Papa’s Burgers was named No. 4 on review site Yelp's 2018 list of the 10 Best Burger Joints in America. This year, the mini-chain was also was named Best Burger in Texas by website Eat This, Not That.
As of press time, Walker is accepting of the circumstances. He says he’s disappointed — not that he'll have to rebrand his business but with how Pappas Restaurants handled the situation.
“This is a season in our lives that is unprecedented. People, small businesses are just trying to exist,” he said. “I genuinely thought if a big brother had a chance to help a little brother, they’d help them up. That this would be the season to do it. We could have found a way to coexist.”
Ironically, the cease-and-desist letter comes as construction on a third Papa's is underway in far North San Antonio, giving Walker's mini-chain a bigger footprint than Pappas Burgers.
“Houston is a completely different world. They may be in the San Antonio market with the [Pappadeauxs and Pappasitos] restaurants, but they don’t have the San Antonio heart,” Walker said. “I believe San Antonio in the spice of this world, so the first thing that came to mind in this situation was no los entienden: they don’t understand. They don’t understand that we’re about family, community here.”
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