Martin Sprock made big claims when he founded Raving Brands in 2000, saying that the holding company would open 1,000 stores in less than a decade. Those promises looked to become reality as the Atlanta-based company signed hundreds of franchise operators and purchased or created several fast-casual concepts. Sprock became a major player—a restaurant business celebrity of sorts—and garnered positive attention from many business media, including this one.
Then came the lawsuits claiming Sprock took undisclosed kickbacks from suppliers. Most recently, Sprock was named in a Moe’s Southwest Grill case that mentioned a possible sale in order to protect the plaintiff’s assets.
On April 11, Raving Brands sold Moe’s to FOCUS Brands. FOCUS president Steve Romaniello says Sprock will not be involved with Moe’s.
So, what happens to Sprock now and are the accusations true?
A day before the sale was made public, QSRmagazine.com’s Fred Minnick asked Sprock some tough questions.
Let’s talk about the lawsuits you’ve faced or are facing. What happened with the Jerry Garcia case?
We got sued by the Jerry Garcia [estate] and worked it out with them. It was very nominal, and I can’t discuss the details. But let’s put it this way, we didn’t lose that lawsuit. They were looking for a big pile of money, which they didn’t get.
And the three separate franchisee lawsuits?
Nobody ever sued us before we started making money. We’re pretty fortunate that the vast majority of our system loves our brand, loves our food, thinks we’re doing a great job. They think we’re one of the fairest franchisors in the business…We’re going to make mistakes, and I think some folks just look for any way to sue people. That’s end of story.
One of the claims is undisclosed kickbacks going to you and your company SOS. How much of that is true?
Why are these people, your business partners, saying that?
That group represents less than 5 percent of our entire chain. What can I tell you? I did get involved in purchasing, and I did provide incredible purchasing power. Most of our group will tell you we have a great purchasing program. They’re upset about a legal technicality, and they’re trying to angle for something in a lawsuit that they see a different way. We’re just going to have to let the courts figure that out over the next couple of years.
Your former employee Anne Wheatley claims she didn’t receive stock options. What happened there?
Let me just tell you this: Anne Wheatley is the only person that’s ever left Raving Brands and said she had unrestricted stock. All of her friends at the company sat in depositions and said ‘Anne, that’s not true.’ At some point, you just got to [say] that’s life. It’s costing everybody a lot of money and a lot of heartache.