Photograph courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamagenious/401272522/ (Creative Commons)
By Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade
As if trying to open a small community restaurant wasn’t difficult enough, we now have a corporate giant on our back.
We quit our day jobs as a lawyer and marketer to follow our life dream of owning a restaurant. We spent months dealing with conniving landlords, formulating recipes and designing the ideal spot that focuses heavily on local, artisanal products. And 48 hours before debuting our mac and cheese at the San Francisco Underground Farmers’ Market, we found out that McDonald’s will sue us if we open using the name that took months to finalize: Little Mac.
Mac, clearly referring to “mac and cheese;” little, referring to the small environmental footprint we aim to achieve.
We chose the name six months ago and consulted with a lawyer who told us we would not have an issue with McDonald's because no one would confuse our restaurant with theirs. We were assured that because no one would walk into Little Mac thinking it was an extension of McDonald’s, we would be safe from legal repercussions.
We were wrong. A phone conversation with McDonald’s corporate council revealed that any food establishment that opens with “mac” or “mc” in the name is in danger of being sued – even if it obviously does not play off of the global brand. They told us once a restaurant enters their radar, they go after them. And while they may not win in a court of law, we are a small restaurant, with an even smaller budget, and
cannot afford the fight.
As two young women who have poured their life savings into a dream and have never owned a restaurant before, this news truly baffled and disappointed us. We have grown emotional attached to the name Little Mac and still do not understand why such an enormous entity like McDonald’s would feel threatened by a restaurant that so clearly does not dilute their brand.
But, we move on. Now, we are counting on our community to come up with the perfect “mac-less” name for our restaurant. Something playful, catchy and reminds you of that childhood feeling of eating a bowl full of rich, delicious mac and cheese. If we choose your name, we’ll give you a lifetime of free mac and cheese.
If you have the perfect name for our now nameless restaurant, enter our contest here.
Look for our restaurant, which opens in November, at 400 40th St. in Oakland.