Renowned Chicago hot-dog producer Vienna Beef is suing a competitor, Red Hot Chicago, for allegedly stealing a 118-year-old recipe and capitalizing on Vienna’s legacy. Scott Ladany, owner of Red Hot Chicago, is accused of false advertising, unfair competition and trademark infringement.
Ladany, whose grandfather was a co-founder of Vienna Beef, worked for Vienna until the early 1980s. When he left Vienna, he sold his stake in the company and agreed not to use or disclose Vienna’s recipes. He was prohibited from competing with Vienna for two-and-a-half years.
When the competition ban expired, Ladany founded Red Hot Chicago in 1986. He showcased photographs of his grandfather that were also used at Vienna, included Vienna Beef’s name in his advertising and chose “A Family Tradition Since 1893” as Red Hot’s slogan. Most recently, Red Hot Chicago began advertising that its hot dogs were made with a “time-honored family recipe” from the 1800s.
Vienna Beef says the promotions not only confuse customers, but they also allow Red Hot Chicago to profit from Vienna’s brand recognition. The latest recipe claim is evidence that Red Hot Chicago has either stolen Vienna Beef’s recipe or is lying to customers about its recipe, Vienna says.