A couple of Octobers ago, longtime Kardashian accessory Jonathan 'Foodgod' Cheban posted a video on Instagram that featured two boxes and two trays filled with sliders, chicken wings, onion rings, and sliced fries from a Burgerim restaurant in Los Angeles. "This is a Foodgod out-of-control lunch here," he said. "This is my new spot, Burgerim."
The restaurant quickly shared the video on Twitter, writing that "Foodgod has blessed our burgers." By December, Foodgod—he's since changed his name to Foodgod—had signed a seven-figure deal to become the chain's spokesperson.
"I posted about Burgerim because I loved it so much and then I got a call," he told the Daily Mail. " I signed a multi-million dollar contract and now my photo is in all their stores […] There are stores in Miami and Los Angeles, and they are going to open hundreds more."
But Foodgod is better at designing impractical Yeezys than he is at predicting fast food fortunes. According to an unbelievable three-part report by Restaurant Business, the chain is on the brink of a Chapter 11 'reorganization,' and an estimated 100 of its restaurants have quietly closed. Burgerim also failed to settle up with Foodgod, and he has sent a strongly worded legal letter ending their relationship.
Page Six reports that Foodgod's attorney, Steve Mandell, has requested that Burgerim pay "all sums due to [Foodgod]", demanded that it remove his photo from its restaurants, and stop "making representations that Mr. Cheban is liable for any of [Burgerim's] debt."
Mandell has not yet received a response because, uh, it seems like Burgerim president Oren Loni has left the United States, possibly for good. Restaurant Business is attempting to chronicle what went wrong at Burgerim—and what's still going wrong—but it seems to have been mismanaged from the off.
"Loni’s restaurants are more than a lucrative place for grabbing the burger," he once wrote in a Medium post. "Burgerim has become a global sensation with over 200 locations all across the world. The professional hope to continue working with ambitious tycoons and help them in starting up Burgerim franchise in each major cities in the US."
But Loni didn't work with ambitious tycoons; instead, Burgerim signed a lot of franchise agreements with non-tycoons who had zero industry experience. It also failed to collect royalties from its franchisees, despite the fact that these are a significant source of income for a franchisor that does not operate any of its own restaurants.
"What Burgerim did is akin to Comcast taking the installation fee for a customer’s new cable account and then waiving the monthly subscription charge," Restaurant Business wrote.
In December, Burgerim's franchisees received an email informing them that the company had hired an insolvency attorney and was restructuring its debts. That process, it said, "may involve filing a petition for Chapter 11 'reorganization.'"
But the email included in the letter didn't work, and the phone number went to an already full voicemail box. Restaurant Business reports that some employees haven't received a paycheck "in months," and at least one former franchisee says that he lost so much money that he's now homeless. And no one, including Burgerim's attorney, knows exactly where Loni is, or whether he'll come back to the U.S.
If Foodgod got any money out of Burgerim, it sounds like he had a better experience than a lot of people who were involved with the company. Some of them didn't even get an Instagram post out of it.