McDonald’s is having a cow over a lawsuit by two South Florida patrons who say they haven’t been given a financial break when ordering Quarter Pounders without cheese.
The fast-food giant says that requiring restaurants to give customers such a break would create “utter chaos” in the retail food business.
The company filed its response late last week to a lawsuit that Cynthia Kissner of Broward County and Leonard Werner of Miami-Dade County filed in early May in U.S District Court in Fort Lauderdale.
In the suit, which seeks class-action status, Kissner and Werner said they have routinely been charged the full price of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese instead of a reduced price when they’ve ordered a plain Quarter Pounder without cheese.
McDonald’s offered the plain Quarter Pounder for years on its menu and today offers the item without cheese for a reduced price for customers who order it through the company’s online app, the suit states.
The suit seeks damages under federal antitrust laws, Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and a common law claim for unjust enrichment.
But in its response, McDonald’s asked the court to dismiss the complaint on grounds the company doesn’t offer a Quarter Pounder without cheese “as an advertised and listed menu item.”
“For years, the only version of the Quarter Pounder that McDonald’s has advertised and displayed on its menu boards is the version with cheese,” said the response, filed by Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez of the Miami firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. “Thus, when a customer orders a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese as displayed on the menu, but asks the restaurant to hold the cheese, the customer is customizing a standard menu item to meet a personal preference, in the same way a customer may omit pickles or onions.”
Yet in an email, plaintiffs attorney Russell B. Adler pointed out that Quarter Pounders without cheese are available through the restaurant chain’s mobile app and in “most” McDonald’s that have touch-screen ordering kiosks.
“The fact of the matter is McDonald’s sells the original regular Quarter Pounder without cheese. I just purchased one last week,” he said.
McDonald’s said the suit is fundamentally flawed because it is based on the theory that retail restaurants “have some legal obligation to reduce the price of a standard menu item to reflect the customer’s decision to decline some ingredient or component of that item.”
“This is, in a word, nonsense,” McDonald’s response said, adding that forcing restaurants to reduce prices to reflect the customer’s decision to “hold” or delete an ingredient “not only has no basis in law, but would create utter chaos in the retail food industry.”
The response also said McDonald’s doesn’t control prices that franchisee restaurants charge for their menu items, including the decision of whether to reduce the price of a Quarter Pounder with cheese if the customer declines the cheese.
The plaintiffs have suffered no injury, McDonald’s said, because they chose to order a sandwich plainly advertised as containing cheese “and priced accordingly.”
Kissner and Werner have until July 13 to respond to McDonald’s motion to dismiss the case, according to the case docket.
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