11:33am PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Food Network Show Contestant Sues Over Lackluster Prize
The Food Network’s reality show Giving You the Business falls far short of its title, claims a new lawsuit.
In Giving You the Business, which premiered April 25 and just finished its first season, competing food service employees are put to the test with unexpected challenges in their eateries. The competitors do not know they are being filmed by hidden cameras -- and whoever performs best wins his or her own franchise of the episode’s featured restaurant.
That’s the way it’s supposed to go, at least.
Kris Herrera won the Giving You the Business episode that aired May 23 and focused on the New York frozen yogurt franchise 16 Handles. Herrera, who managed a New York City location of 16 Handles, says he was repeatedly promised his own 16 Handles location.
Instead, he claims, all he received was a single, non-transferable, non-voting share of common stock in 16 Handles’ parent company.
Now Herrera has sued the Food Network and parent Scripps Networks. In a complaint filed July 16 in a New York court, he also targets as defendants 16 Handles founder Solomon Choi and parent companies Yogurt City and Yo Fresh and Food Network producer Cineflex.
Herrera says he was first told in a "ruse and deception" that he had been selected to participate in filming a "corporate video" for the yogurt chain and instructed to submit photos of his family. Later, he says he was assigned a seven-hour shift in which he dealt with “situations of embarrassment and ridicule that placed him in a negative light.”
Herrera then says that he, along with other store managers, were told to report to a TV studio where it was revealed that they had unknowingly been a participant in the show. They were told of the premise of the show and allegedly promised that one of them would win a franchise location.
That’s where things started to go wrong, Herrera claims. When the episode had completed filming, the network “began advising [Herrera] that he was going to be awarded only a 'part of a franchise' or a 'stake in a franchise.' "
His inquiries about exactly what percentage he would receive went unanswered, he claims, and three days before the airing, he received the disappointing stock share.
He has sued for breach of contract, fraud and violation of his right to privacy and publicity. The complaint states he "would have never allowed the episode that showed him in situations of embarrassment, ridicule, defamation and false light to air … if he was not going to be awarded his own franchise store and if he was only going to be awarded a single, non-transferable, share of stock."
According to the complaint, after he was told that he had won his own franchise store, Herrera was presented with a release form, which the plaintiff contends "was a condition to his being awarded his very own franchise store." The contract waives or transfers much of Herrera's legal rights but the plaintiff is disputing its enforceability.
Herrera also has named his daughters Kristine and Kristal as plaintiffs, claiming the episode used the girls’ pictures and Kristine’s voice without valid consent.
“I feel like it’s a total fraud. They lied to me and they are lying to the American public,” Herrera said in a statement. “Every week dozens of people come into the store and congratulate me on winning my own franchise store. They don’t know all I got was the shaft.”
Food Network representatives declined to comment.