You might remember my old AZA fraternal brother Jeff Ackerman from two days ago. Perhaps you were wondering why he e-mailed me after 20 years. I hope not; I hope you have a life of your own, but at any rate he called because he was in the middle of a dispute in central Massachusetts with a Panera Bread franchisee.
Jeff's a Qdoba franchisee and he had signed a lease to open a restaurant in the same shopping center where a Panera was located, and the Panera franchisee there had stipulated in the lease that no other limited-service restaurant with more than 10 percent of sales in sandwiches could open there.
The Panera franchisee was arguing that burritos were, in fact, sandwiches, so Jeff was looking for people to sign affidavits saying no they were not, either.
Thinking out loud and practicing verbal algebra, I observed that a burrito could be construed as a wrap and a wrap as a sandwich, although of course it also could be argued that when a consumer is going out for lunch, he or she does not generally equate a burrito with a sandwich.
After giving it still more thought I deemed it unwise as someone who reports on foodservice to be anything but neutral in this regard and begged off.
But if Jeff Ackerman wants to open a Qdoba, he's going to open it. The Panera folks probably didn't know this, but he was elected as AZA's Grand Aleph Godol. That's international president of the entire order and no trifling matter.
His election came as no shock to me; he could talk the sweet out of honey.
But I had forgotten that skill of his, so I was surprised to see that he got one of New England's top fine-dining chefs, Chris Schlesinger, to write an affadavit in support of the argument that a burrito is no sandwich. He got a food writer to do it, too, and a consultant who managed to scare up USDA documentation specifying exactly what a sandwich was, and further to state that, although the USDA did not consider sandwiches to be under its jurisdiction, it did claim oversight of burritos.
So now, not only does Jeff get to open his Qdoba, but the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has declared that a burrito is not a sandwich.