Renegade Cheesecake Shop franchisee Brad Skuse has set up a site critical of the company, called cheesecakeshoplie.com, six months after being forced to take down cheesecakeshoplies.com.
Skuse, who has operated a TCS franchise in South Australia since 2004, set up a website in July last year called cheesecakeshoplies.com, accusing the company of treating its franchisees badly.
In August, Skuse reached an agreement with The Cheesecake Shop as a result of mediation. At the time, Skuse told StartupSmart he was “extremely happy” with the agreement.
Skuse denies that he has breached the agreement, a claim disputed by The Cheesecake Shop, which issued the following statement:
“The dispute between the Cheesecake Shop Pty Ltd and Bradley Skuse and B & F Skuse Pty Ltd has settled and it is a term of settlement that Brad Skuse deregister the website and agrees not to register the same or any similar website in the future”.
According to Skuse, the material on the site is “pretty much the same” as that of the first site.
“I’ve been inundated with phone calls from other [TCS] franchisees, begging me to help them,” Skuse says.
“I have limited information I can provide to them. This is one way to [disclose information].”
“The idea is for franchisees who didn’t get on board the first time to get on board this time. We’re certainly more united than last time.”
Skuse says while most of the franchisees’ complaints relate to a compulsory store upgrade, at a cost of up to $130,000, there are other issues concerning them.
“Like anything with franchising, there’s more it to than anyone can ever understand until they’re in it themselves,” he says.
“There are always ongoing issues with product development, stock control, and harassment and duress from The Cheesecake Shop management.”
Ken Rosebery, general manager of The Cheesecake Shop, says he has been aware of the site since yesterday afternoon but is yet to make contact with Skuse.
“We’re not going to signal our response at this stage but we will respond,” Rosebery says.
“Given that we reached an agreement, and that agreement has now been breached, we are surprised.”
“We’ve been more than generous in our accommodation of Mr Skuse and more than patient with him in that regard. We were prepared to sit down with him and we reached an agreement.”
“Clearly, we will act and we will deal with it.”
Rosebery says the material on the site is “untrue and offensive”, and breaches the company’s intellectual property. He also doubts whether other TCS franchisees have appealed to Skuse.
“I think that’s a lie,” Rosebery says.
“The cost of the upgrade is a significant investment. Not every franchisee is happy with that. Many are happy and there are some that will have their concerns.”
“Not everyone is completely happy with The Cheesecake Shop. It’s an evolving and vital business with change programs underway in a number of areas, so a lot is going on.”
“Are people broadly unhappy? No, I don’t believe they are… I’ve seen no evidence, and Mr Skuse has produced no evidence, to suggest people are unhappy.”