Torchy’s Tacos, an Austin-based chain of 20 restaurants, has filed a lawsuit against Houston-based Texas Taco Co. claiming that the smaller chain stole its recipes and duplicated its menu items.
Torchy’s, with restaurants in Austin, Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth, claims that Texas Taco, a chain of three stores, used Torchy’s “Taco Bible” to create a nearly identical menu. According to the complaint, a former employee of Torchy’s stole the book of detailed recipes. The cook now allegedly works at Texas Taco, where some items with identical descriptions have appeared on the menu.
The plaintiff claims that its recipes constitute trade secrets because they detail start-to-finish processes describing the order in which ingredients are cooked and how they are combined.
According to the lawsuit, a Torchy’s manager viewed security footage that showed an employee hiding the Taco Bible under his shirt and exiting the restaurant. The manager called the employee and demanded he return the book, which he did approximately six hours later. He was then fired.
Two months later, Torchy’s claims that a manager visited Texas Taco Co. and found the ex-employee working there and nearly identical items on the menu.
According to a local news report, some of the descriptions on the menus of the two restaurants are duplicated verbatim.
Torchy’s claims that the ex-employee provided Texas Taco with trade secrets in violation of a nondisclosure agreement he signed.