August 18, 2022
A proposed class action filed in Illinois state court against a large Chicago-based restaurant group claims it has overcharged customers through undisclosed price increases, deceptive surcharges and so-called processing fees to increase revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc., a privately held company that owns more than 100 restaurants nationwide – including co-defendant Do-Rite Tinley LLC, a restaurant chain that serves donuts and fried chicken sandwiches – implemented a deceptive and unlawful scheme to charge extra costs without notice, according to named plaintiff James Maher’s Tuesday complaint.
“For nearly two years, under the veneer of COVID-19 impacts, defendants have boosted their revenue by 3% to 4% across all their locations with these deceptive surcharges and ‘processing fees,'” Maher said. “In many instances, customers are not made aware of these surcharges and ‘processing fees’ until after payment.”
The surprise charges exceed the restaurants’ advertised menu prices and applicable taxes, Maher claimed.
The Cook County, Illinois, resident alleged that he bought food on Feb. 20 from Do-Rite at a store located in the village of Tinley Park, southwest of Chicago. To Maher’s surprise, Do-Rite and Lettuce Entertain You imposed a 3% surcharge on his order and didn’t tell him of the extra charge before he made his purchase, according to the suit.
No signage existed in the Do-Rite store’s drive-thru lane to let customers know that the surcharge would be levied, and Maher said he only learned of it after he paid for his food and got a receipt.
Maher estimates that there are more than 40 class members, comprised of all people in Illinois who paid the defendants a surcharge without their knowledge or consent between August 2017 and now. The exact number of members in the proposed class is unknown at this point but can be ascertained during discovery, Maher said.
The complaint alleges a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, along with counts of fraud and unjust enrichment.
Maher seeks certification of the class, a court declaration that Lettuce Entertain You and Do-Rite’s actions constitute fraud and a violation of the act, and an award of damages to be determined at trial.
While the costs of doing business everywhere have increased due to the pandemic, the defendants wrongfully gained monetary benefits from their unjust conduct, the suit said.
“Instead of factoring any increased operation costs into their pricing model (as every other industry has been forced to do) and simply adjusting the visible advertised price of their menu items so customers are informed, defendants regularly and unlawfully add these deceptive surcharges to their customers’ bills without authorization or notification,” Maher alleged.
Counsel for Maher did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Representatives for Do-Rite Tinley and Lettuce Entertain You were not immediately available for comment.
Maher is represented by James X. Bormes and Catherine P. Sons of the Law Office of James X. Bormes, Donald J. Pechous and Paul A. Castiglione of the Khowaja Law Firm LLC and Elizabeth M. Al-Dajani and Karnig S. Kerkonian of Kerkonian Dajani LLP.
Counsel information for Do-Rite Tinley and Lettuce Entertain You was not available.
The case is James Maher v. Do-Rite Tinley LLC and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc., case number 2022-CH-08000, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chancery Division.