NEW YORK – The first Bareburger opened in Astoria in 2009 by a group of Greek friends who wanted to produce and serve superior quality burgers at reasonable prices. The response was huge and in less than a year, a second Bareburger opened in Manhattan. Today, the company counts 40 restaurants around the world, including in New York, Connecticut, Ohio, New Jersey, Toronto, Santa Monica, Miami, Tokyo, and Frankfurt.
One of the Bareburger’s six partners, Michael Pitsinos left his hometown of Athens about 19 years ago for New York in order to go to college. At Baruch, he met brothers Euripides and Eftychios Pelekanos, the co-founders of Bareburger, and along with other friends, they partnered to build the chain.
The “biggest New York franchisee,” Pitsinos owns five Bareburger Manhattan locations and court records reveal that he sent three of them to bankruptcy, the New York Post reported.
A feud among the owners has apparently led to this situation, Pitsisnos said, the Post reported, noting that “a lawsuit Pitsinos filed last fall claims Bareburger brass deliberately ran his locations ‘into the ground’ by systematically failing to pay necessary expenses including rents, payroll taxes, and food suppliers.”
“The idea, court documents allege, was to cripple Pitsinos with debt and eviction notices, then swoop in to buy his restaurants on the cheap,” the Post reported, adding that “as the unpaid bills piled up, the Bareburger owners continued to pay themselves management and licensing fees, according to Pitsinos’ attorney, George Sitaras.”
“There has been such dirty business dealings and fraud on the part of the Bareburger franchisor over the past few years,” Sitaras told The Post.
Bareburger Chief Executive Euripides Pelekanos said, “I’ll let a court decide whether Bareburger ran his restaurants into the ground. All of our restaurants in the city have done very well for close to a decade,” the Post reported.
“Like every other restaurant group, we have had our challenges,” Pelekanos told the Post. “But we have a recognizable brand and we are doing some cool stuff with our menu this year.”
According to his lawyer, Pitsinos has spent close to $10 million on the business and “had the exclusive franchise rights to develop Bareburgers in Florida,” the Post reported, adding that this is not the first time a partner has sued, citing the 2015 case of another founding partner, John Stavroulakis. Pelekanos had served as Stavroulakis’ best man for his wedding, but sued his former business partners, alleging that “five of the partners created a separate company called Bareburger Group without telling Stavroulakis, who had moved to Greece at the time and became a passive investor,” the Post reported, adding that they had “transferred the Bareburger trademark to the new entity without compensating Stravroulakis for his share except for a nominal amount including his original $6,000 investment as a founder, court papers allege.”
The ruling from the New York Supreme Court judge noted that the partners did commit “trademark infringement and cited their own language in her decision that they tried to ‘screw’ their partner,” the Post reported.
That case could help Pitsinos in his lawsuit since “the company should have disclosed the litigation in its franchise disclosure agreements as well as the dispute over the use of the trademark,” Pitsinos said, the Post reported.
Bareburger customers have the choice of beef, chicken, turkey, bison, elk, duck, or wild boar meat for their burgers. All Bareburger meats are free-range, pasture raised, humanely raised, antibiotic, and gluten- and hormone-free. There are also many vegan options on the menu like sweet potato and wild rice, black bean, and farmers quinoa patty. Customers have further options in building their burger by choosing from among an array of buns, patties, cheeses, veggies, and extras.
As for beverages, organic shakes, beer, wine, and more than 20 specialty cocktails are served.
Organic and healthy ingredients, great food quality, and reasonable prices are the reasons why Bareburger is considered one of the most successful and popular burger chains.