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THE STEAK ESCAPE FED UP WITH THE GREAT STEAK & FRY LAWSUIT FILED FOR FRANCHISE INFRINGEMENT

 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, some companies would just as soon not be flattered; they'd rather tell it to the judge. And so it goes, that The Steak Escape is suing Nicar Franchising, Inc., their founder Nick Lanni and their franchisees for essentially doing a knockoff of their operation. Nicar Franchising franchises The Great Steak & Fry Company and The Great Steak & Potato Company.
 The Steak Escape is a successful fast food franchising concept that today numbers 90 stores, with volume of $42 million in 1992 in large shopping mall food courts in 28 states and in Japan.
 The suit alleges that in 1982, when The Steak Escape opened its first unit, Nicar Franchising had a unit right across the way called "Potato King" in the same French Market food court of the mall. What was apparent to any observer was how well The Steak Escape was doing. According to the suit, Nicar undertook a series of actions designed to steal and duplicate The Steak Escape's "trade dress," match them virtually item-for-item on the menu as well as the set up of the store and the food delivery system. Nicar began its first store the next year in Florida, and later in Dayton and Columbus, under the name The Great Steak & Fry Company.
 "Basically," says Stan Ames, director of real estate/franchise development, "if you took their store sign down and put one of our signs up, you wouldn't notice the difference between the two stores.
 "What has upset us most," Ames continues, "is they've claimed they are our partner and claimed various other associations with us to gain credibility in the industry. Further, they set up their stores exactly the same as our stores: Nicar has the same cooking system, the same menu item descriptions, the same delivery system, the same preparation system.
 "The style and wording of our menu board was copied; the set up of our product photos; the location of the cash register; the drink fountain; the fryers; the exhibition style grill; the wrap station; the use of a glass front refrigeration unit (which is rarely used in most restaurant operations)....'
 "We forged the way in this industry and they have ridden our coattails by simply copying everything we did. From store design, to menu, to location strategy, to delivery system, they copied it all."
 The Great Steak & Fry Company restaurants even replicated the wording verbatim on most of our sandwich descriptions and order on the menu; even various Steak Escape specialty sandwiches were replicated, according to the suit, and sandwich names were chosen which are confusingly similar.
 And for its early stores, Nicar is alleged to have gone to The Steak Escape's photographer and purchased photo outtakes of Steak Escape product shots to use in their own store. Nicar also allegedly approached Steak Escape's architect to purchase their store plans.
 Separate lawsuits were filed in Cincinnati federal court against Nicar and its franchisees and the case has been assigned to Judge Weber. Council for Steak Escape is Russell A. Kelm of Schwarz Kelm Warren & Rubenstein in Columbus.
 In a similar recent suit that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Taco Cabana recovered a $3.7 million verdict against the copycat Mexican-style restaurant called Two Pesos and has now taken over their operations. Copying, while flattering, can also prove to be costly.
 Nicar Franchising and The Great Steak & Fry Company have home offices in Hamilton, Ohio.
 Whether there has been infringement in a legal sense will now be decided by a Cincinnati jury.
 -0- 2/24/93
 /CONTACT: Marcy Manning or Patrick Fitzgerald, 708-291-1616, for Escape Enterprises/


CO: The Steak Escape; Great Steak & Fry ST: Ohio IN: LEI SU:

PS -- NY030 -- 9909 02/24/93 12:21 EST
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Date:Feb 24, 1993
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