If you walked into one of Walid Elkhatib's Dunkin' Donuts franchises with a hankering for a bacon-filled breakfast sandwich, you'd be out of luck. The Chicago-area franchisee is an Arabic Muslim and refuses to carry pork products in his three stores.
For 18 years Dunkin' Donuts was perfectly content to accommodate Elkhatib's religious beliefs, despite the fact that his contract explicitly said that franchisees must carry Dunkin' Donuts' full product line. In fact the company was so pleased with Elkhatib's service that in 2002 it approached him about moving one of his stores to a more profitable intersection.
"If it's really important to require franchisees to carry a full product line and for whatever reason you don't want to enforce it in a particular instance, you should give that consent in writing and make it clear that under the franchise agreement you're reserving the right to change your mind at any time," says Robert McKinley, partner at Lathrop & Gage.
Rather than granting Elkhatib the exception in the first place, experts agree that Dunkin Donuts could have barred him from becoming a franchisee altogether without running afoul of the law.