City of Brass

City of Brass


Dunkin Donuts says halal is not kosher

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

For over 20 years, Arab-American businessman Walid Elkhatib has run a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in a suburb of Chicago. Now, however, the Dunkin Donuts corporation has decided to single him out for his faith, revoking his franchise:

An Arab-American owner of a Chicago-area
Dunkin’ Donuts store has to give up his franchise after he lost his
long-running legal battle with the restaurant chain over his religious
objections to selling pork products.

A
lawyer for Walid Elkhatib said Tuesday his client is in the process of
removing Dunkin’ Donuts signs from his Westchester outlet, but
apparently not fast enough for the company.

The dietary restrictions of
Elkhatib’s Muslim faith forbid him from eating or handling pork. When
he decided to go into the restaurant business, his faith [was] one of the
reasons why he invested in Dunkin’ Donuts in 1979. The chain did not
introduce breakfast sandwiches until 1984
.

For nearly 20 years,
Dunkin’ Donuts accommodated his religious beliefs, even providing him
signs for his store that said, “No meat products available,”
Elkhatib
asserted in court documents. But in 2002, the company reversed course
and told him it would not renew his franchise agreement if he did not
sell its full line of products.

To those who would cry dhimmitude, note my emphasis above – Elkhatib sought out DD for his business precisely because it had no pork products at the time; they introduced pork to the menu years later. But let’s be clear here. DD has every right to insist on and modify terms for its franchisees, and those terms can indeed include a requirement that the full menu be served with no exception.

However, what DD cannot do is make exceptions for franchisees of one religion and insist on strict adherence for franchisees of another. Which is exactly what Dunkin’ Donuts has been doing – since there are dozens of kosher-certified Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in New York and New Jersey, catering to the Jewish community. There’s even one in Chicago!

Keep in mind that to get an official kosher certification (Kashrut), the restaurant must not only offer kosher menu options, but have no pork products for sale whatsoever. I called the Dunkin’ Donuts in Teaneck, New Jersey (1406 Teaneck Road, 201-862-0062) this
morning and verified for myself that the location is indeed fully
kosher and serves no pork products whatsoever. I also called the Chicago location (3132 W. Devon Ave, 773-262-4560) and they confirmed that they serve an all-vegetarian menu.

The existence of kosher Dunkin’ Donuts stores hasn’t exactly been without controversy, though the specifics are not what you might expect. Far from trying to be kosher against the corporate command, some DD franchisees were discovered to have been proudly advertising their kosher status and still serving pork on the side. Some of these stores claimed they were being forced to “go treyf” (serve pork) by the Dunkin’ Donuts corporation, but the parent company quickly issued denials to assuage the Jewish community’s concerns. Of course, no one is hyperventilating about jhimmitude over any of this.

The larger issue here is, what do we mean by “freedom of religion” ? Where does our practice of religion end and others’ begin? Does it really “impose” faith on others when we make decisions for ourselves – and does it really impose on our customers when we make these decisions in a business context? Yes, there will always be some customers who go into a store and throw a tantrum when they can’t get what they want. But just as no one is forcing the franchise owner to open a store, so too is no one forcing the customer to eat there. Fundamentally, freedom of religion means that there shoudl indeed be freedom on the part of everyone involved. Those who cry dhimmitude at Mr. Elkhatib’s eminently reasonable religious requirements are displaying naked Islamophobia, given that Dunkin’ Donuts is applying a double standard to which they presumably do not object. If Dunkin’ Donuts wants to make a change to its terms, it has that right – but that change must be equally binding to all franchisees, not just muslim ones. Until then, this truly is a case of religious oppression rather than freedom.

UPDATE: It’s worth remembering that last year, Dunkin’ Donuts was quick to pull an advertisement in response to Jewish complaints, which featured Rachel Ray wearing a checkered scarf. The argument was that the scarf resembled a kefffiyeh (Palestinian symbol) and thus was implicitly anti-Semitic. The absolute ludicrousness of this hysterical demand was not enough to keep DD from caving immediately. It seems that DD is keen to be as proactive as possible in disassociating itself from any hint of dhimmitude. 

Related: Discussion at Talk Islam. Also, there’s an in-depth article on franchising under kosher requirements, which goes into extensive detail about finer details including Sabbath observations by suppliers, Jewish ownership, and even cooking by non-Jews in the kitchen. There are many strong (and non-coincidental) parallels to halal, of course. An interesting fact that may or may not be relevant to the story at hand: it was  Jewish entrepeneur who is credited with inventing the modern franchise system in the 1950’s, by launching his own business selling coffee, donuts and bagels. The name of that first franchise? Dunkin’ Donuts Corporation.

All this political talk making you hungry? Here’s an active thread on Chowhound discussing kosher DD locations. There’s also the Shamash kosher database that lets you search major metro regions throughout the US for kosher restaurants of all types. For muslims, there’s no better resource for finding halal food than Zabihah.com.



  • Ploni Almoni

    As an Orthodox Jew, I’m surprised and disappointed at the policy of Dunkin Donuts corporate.
    In Oak Park, Michigan, there’s a kosher Dunkin Donuts owned by a Christian Arab. It is certified kosher by the local Council of Orthodox Rabbis.
    He was pressured by Dunkin Corporate to serve their full menu line-up, including pork. The Jewish community rallied to his support, writing letters and making phone calls to Dunkin’s corporate headquarters.
    It was pointed out that a significant number of Jews live, work, and attend school in the area around his store, and that he would lose a lot of business if he stopped It may have helped that as a Christian, he obviously had no religious motive — he just wanted to serve his customers.
    Perhaps the Muslim community of Chicago should have worked to make their voices heard. Can make a case for Halal on business grounds? Is there a large Halal-observant community that would stop patronizing his store of he sells pork?
    I realize it may be too late for Mr. Elkhatib, but it’s something to keep in mind for the future.

  • http://rahma.hadithuna.com UmmSqueakster

    Assalamu Alaikum,
    I actually clicked in to comment that perhaps we could organize a letter writing campaign and see that the previous poster mentioned that it has been done sucessfully before.

  • khalid

    Excellent, astute article
    Being from Australia I would also like to mention that the prisons in Western australia specifically serve kosher meals to practising ‘Jewish’ priosners (not that there are many of them) yet refuses to serve halaal meals to practising Muslim prsioners (not many of them either)…
    It doesn’t have to be big to be important
    I hope he wins his rights to serve halaal only produce…he has the right surely

  • Your Name

    I would love to see the Muslim community take matters into their own hands on this topic and start their own line of restaurants. There are so many of these lawsuits due to the intense predjudice against Muslims in predominantly “Christian” societies – that I’d prefer to see the money go into businesses, hospitals, even banks, that are owned and operated according to Muslim guidlines, rather than go to the pockets of lawyers to fight those who are simply intolerant.
    This is not happening because of a “misunderstanding” or a “mistake”. This is predjudice, and the goal is to harrass Muslims and weaken them. When recongnized for what it is, a more effective response that defensive posturing can be mounted.
    Muslim culture is at odds with the typical corporate culture of never ending maximized profits (at the expense of others, of course). Muslims with their own lines of restaurants, banks, hospitals, etc would operate on a lower profit margin and be more successful than the blood-sucking corporations. In the end, I believe Muslims would have control of their businesses and not have to waste resources and energy in dealing with bigots who use Dunkin Donuts and other organizations to assert their predjudices.

  • Kyzeer Ihedioha

    It must be honer or it to me is founder as , you do what we say and the heck with your contract, Religoin play a very big part of my life, and the almighty Allah, My lord and savior state no man . woman or child should never eat ot touch pork or pig for it is uncleaned!

  • http://www.daganghalal.com/directory/directoryListing.asp?intID=414 Edward Kong

    Find Halal manufacturers, suppliers, exporters selling Halal breads, biscuits & pastries. Providing company information, product catalogue and contant information. Post halal buying leads to manufacturers to source best suppliers.

  • david

    As a practicing (but not kosher) Jew, I appreciate the fact that DD allows their predominately jewish locations (under protest) to abide by kosher law. There should be no different standard set for my Muslim cousins. To not allow DD franchisors to abide prohibit the sale of pork and follow Halal seems to be a double standard. I would be happy to help assist in lobbying DD to allow franchisors the same liberty to follow Halal in their their stores as other stores follow laws of Kosher.

  • nas

    Dear David,
    Thank you for the kind offer. Perhaps you could call Walid Elkhatib to coordinate an effort. Also, contact CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) office in DC http://www.cair.com/
    Thanks,
    Nas

  • Marion

    This just seems like a bad business decision all around in addition to the double standard around the kosher restaurants. I’m a non-practicing Jew but we’re vegetarians. One thing I’ve noticed in my city (New York) is a number of vegetarian Chinese restaurants that are also kosher — giving them access to two different markets. It seems like an all dairy DD would do well. If they really wanted to be creative they could even sell soy sausages with their breakfast sandwiches. Good business, good community relations, good health and even humanitarian!

  • Bill Kowalski

    Dunkin Donuts seems to have chosen to reject one Semitic religion to ally itself with another, its close cousin.
    It never makes sense to take sides in domestic disputes, especially those that originated on the other side of the world in countries where the price for such strong cultural allegiance is paid every day. This is America, and we’re supposed to stand for freedom here, and justice, not some religion.
    Either hold all franchisees to the same rules, or (like most franchising firms seem to do) allow each franchisee to use some judgment.

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