As any true aficionado knows, a “Chicago-style” hot dog is served on a poppy-seed bun, garnished with mustard, green-relish, a pickle spear, chopped onions, tomato wedges, sports peppers, and celery salt. Chicago may no longer be the “hog butcher to the world,” but Chicagoans still take their hot dogs quite seriously, as evidenced by a recently filed lawsuit. (Vienna Beef, Ltd. V. Red Hot Chicago, Inc. and Scott D. Ladany)
There are about 2,000 hot dog stands in Illinois and – according to Vienna – approximately 75% of them sell Vienna products and display Vienna signage “because they recognize the importance of the Vienna name, the Vienna brand and Vienna products to their customers.”
Ladany is the grandson of one of Vienna’s founders. At one time, he was employed by Vienna and owned 10% of the company’s stock, but that ended in 1983. In 1986 he established his own hot dog company, Red Hot Chicago (“RHC”). “For more than 25 years” – according to Vienna – “Ladany and RHC made few inroads into Vienna’s position of dominance of the hot dog stand market…Accordingly, Ladany and RHC recently decided to take a different tack…they would lay claim to Vienna’s recipes, pretend to be Vienna, and sell their products by misappropriating the enormous power of the Vienna name and reputation among consumers and vendors.”
Yes, indeed, folks, RHC is – according to Vienna – “trying to convince Vienna hot dog vendors to sell RHC hot dogs by misrepresenting them to be Vienna hot dogs without disclosing the switch to their customers or Vienna, [and] telling Vienna hot dog vendors that RHC’s hot dogs are made with Vienna’s 118-year old recipes.”
Admittedly, these allegations are yet to be proved, but we find them shocking. Is nothing sacred? If you can’t rely on a hot dog, what’s left?