Daniel Sommer
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Billet de blog 19 janv. 2014

The Curious Recipes of The Domino’s Pizza Network

Daniel Sommer
Abonné·e de Mediapart

Ce blog est personnel, la rédaction n’est pas à l’origine de ses contenus.

The Curious Recipes of The Domino’s Pizza Network

December 14, 2013 by Dan Israel (translated from French by Paul Seiberling)

http://www.mediapart.fr/biographie/205822 Dan Israel

The leader in pizza delivery in France is the target of several pending Court Proceedings. Its competitor, Speed Rabbit Pizza, as well as franchisees (former or still within the network) accuse them of camouflaging illegal methods to play up their success. The company refutes the entirety of the claims.

They’ve put away the scooters, turned off the ovens for the last time and tiptoed away from the famous red and white domino sign. Regularly, company managers affiliated with the ever-expanding leader in pizza delivery in France are discretely putting an end to the expenses. They’re leaving Domino’s Pizza, of whom they were confident franchisees. Their hearts heavy, generally; their pockets emptied, very often.

When these defeated entrepreneurs agree to disclose the reasons of their failure, such disclosure is often the same: very low prices imposed upon them by the management of the group, extremely weak margins, accumulating debt towards Domino’s Pizza France, often with tacit consent from the company as they declare. They talk about how they lost control after having tried to follow the company’s instructions, without succeeding in earning a living.

Their account is fiercely contested by management at Domino’s Pizza, who prefer to point out their indisputable success. In 2006, there were 97 stores bearing the Domino’s logo in France. Today, there are close to 230, in the hands of 80 franchisees (the chain also has 16 self-owned stores). Its competitors, Pizza Hut, La Boîte à Pizza and Speed Rabbit Pizza have no more than 130 stores each. Domino’s announced total sales of its network of 155 million euros and a net profit for the enterprise itself of around 1.3 million.

And yet, a handful of the franchisees launched a lawsuit against the brand, convinced that it had deceived them by hiding the truth about the low profitability of the concept, and about the financial health of its affiliates. On judicial grounds, those disillusioned with pizza joined one of their main competitors yesterday, Speed Rabbit Pizza, who has been trying for years to prove that Domino’s has been avoiding regulation to impose its own rules.

When he undertook heading a brand new store in Bayonne in March 2008, Augustin Estar never thought it would get to this point. In November 2012, like four other of his former colleagues, he initiated an action against Domino’s Pizza before the 19th Chamber of the Commercial Court of Paris. Returning to France after having worked abroad in aeronautics, he had invested 80,000 euros in savings to open his store. By the end of four years, he had exhausted 400,000 euros, before requesting the Judge to order a measure of judicial safeguard of his company to give up the brand name and become independent. “I have a lot of questions about the methods of the brand,” he says.

“Before deciding, they had sold me the franchise as an interesting job that wouldn’t be too time-consuming,” he remembers. “They assured me that I could lean on the managers, go on vacation often… To start up, I followed to the letter everything that Domino’s Pizza advised me to do to: the location of the store, the way to set it up, the improvements and alterations… I hired 20 people and bought 8 scooters. My wife and I believed in it.” The banks a little less. “I needed a loan of 300,000 euros, but my project wasn’t approved by the bankers. So Domino’s lent me 30,000 euros and passed my dossier onto its bank partner, HSBC.”

When he signed, they had dangled the prospect of sales of 8,000 euros a week in front of him for the first year, and then 20,000 euros two years later. But at the end of two years, his sales reached a ceiling of only 6,000 euros a week, while expenses continued to accumulate. Every month, franchisees pay to the “network head” the equivalent of 6.5% of their sales in royalties and 4% for advertisement. (A few weeks ago, the franchisees who gathered together during their annual seminar accepted to raise this portion up to 5%, called the NAF (National Advertising Fund)).

One of the originalities of the Domino’s network is that franchisees also have another major financial tie with their franchiser: they exclusively buy straight from them the primary materials necessary to make the pizza. It is article 6.2 of the franchise contract, entered into for a period of ten years. These ingredients purchases represent 25 to 30% of sales depending on the stores. But Augustin Estar quickly realized that he had a great deal of difficulty paying the whole of these bills.

“Very quickly, I started to not pay my bills to Domino’s Pizza and the debt accumulated. At its worst, we had reached almost 200,000 euros of debt accumulated in three years,” he asserted. “In June 2012, we had dropped down to 66,000 euros, but management proposed to transform this debt into a loan, at 4.8%. I did some research, and a lawyer explained to me that it could be illegal in some cases, and I refused. That’s the point where everything got jammed. Domino’s Pizza asked me to pay everything all at once. Of course I couldn’t do that. They then proposed to buy my store for 100,000 euros, even though I had invested four times more in it. I refused again, and I decided to sue them.”

The account of the entrepreneur from Bayonne gathers all the points of dispute upon which the French king of the pizza delivery men and its adversaries fight: a profitability that would be insufficient, bills not paid on time that the franchiser lets accumulate, proposed loans when the pizza producer did not have the right to grant them, the buying back of stores at low prices from franchisees in bad financial position…

Management discourages staff to talk to Mediapart

The current president of Domino’s Pizza France refutes these accusations one by one. Andrew Rennie, who had already directed the company from 2006 to 2010 and has just retaken the lead, is Australian. For more than seven years, the hexagonal group has belonged to Domino’s Pizza Enterprise, based in Australia, which acquired the right to operate the brand from the American parent company. Valued at more than one billion dollars by the Sydney Stock Exchange, DPE oversees 1,200 stores and 26,000 people spread over six countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Belgium, The Netherlands and France.

“Only 5 to 10% of our franchisees are having difficulty, serious or temporary,” assures Andrew Rennie, who himself managed ten stores after having spent ten years in the Australian army. “It is always the same proportion, everywhere in the world. They’re the ones who are disgruntled, but the truth is that they were unlucky, or more often, that they are not good entrepreneurs.”

Therefore officially, everything is going for the better at Domino’s. But a certain nervousness is perceivable when faced with the curiosity of Mediapart. As soon as the information circulated that a journalist tried to know the behind-the-scenes details of the stores, the head of communications of the brand contacted us. And very quickly, an email was sent out to staff to indicate to them that management was the only one able to reply to us. Ever since, our spokespeople have not been around much.

Three pizzas for the price of one: the very controversial “HVM” method

For Andrew Rennie, only one number counts and proves the validity of his concept. “Currently, we are opening about twenty new stores a year and 80% of them are by people who are already franchisees. If our business was bad, why would they intend to involve themselves more?” Bernard Bataillé, president of Pepperoni, the association created in 1998 that draws together more than 80% of the franchisees, follows the same line of thought. He condemns the “totally defamatory attacks” and sweeps away any worry. “Of course, the margins are weak and you’ve got to work hard every single day. It is a tough job. But you can also make a living, and a good one at that.”

Others confirm, in part. “It’s true that when everything is going well, you make money,” comments Pierre Arezki, who spent ten years in the network and ran the Domino’s in La Rochelle from 2007 to 2009, before selling it back after having personal worries. “I could make up to 12,000 euros a month, it was wonderful. And I know people who own several stores who collect more than 100,000 euros a year via the dividends of their company, not counting their salary. “

But everything changes when business slows down. “With the crisis, my sales fell,” recounts Pierre Arezki. “Then, management told me to lower the prices to draw people in. And it is true, the customers came back. But I wasn’t making a margin anymore or almost none, and my revenues tumbled…”

“More pizza, more fun!” It is the mantra of the brand. For customers, of course, who are encouraged to always consume more of their products. But for the franchisees all the same, who are pushed to sell relentlessly, including lowering their prices as much as possible with impressive promotions. The “crazy Tuesdays” and other “weeks of madness” are one of the hallmarks of the company, especially in France. Publicity stunts consisting in lowering the price of a pizza by a third (for a final price that falls between 6.95 and 8.95 euros, depending on the stores and time periods), then proposing two for the price of one for pickup, even three for the price of one during off-peak hours, up to several times during the week…

This method of reduced prices has a name: HVM, for “High Volume Mentality.” What is important is not to sell an expensive pizza, but to sell enormous amounts of them at small prices. Indispensable to make oneself known. Ideal for winning the loyalty of fickle customers. Perfect for breaking the back of the competition, who’s forced to conform. The HVM strategy was presented to all of the franchisees on the 12th of July 2006, during the first seminar organized by the Australians after their repurchasing of the brand in France. Ever since, it’s been the credo of the organization, but also the central point of all internal recriminations.

Mediapart gathered the testimony of several entrepreneurs, franchisees or ex-franchisees who all point out the HVM concept as a source of a major part of their problems. “When they brag about the system to you, they insist so much on the sales numbers that explode, but they never say that profits hardly follow,” attests one of them, who specifies that when he has to lower his prices by 30 or 40%, at the request of the “network head,” he doesn’t receive compensation on the prices of “food,” the primary materials that Domino’s sells him… “Inevitably, they don’t care about our final profitability,” grumbles another. “They make their living thanks to the royalties taken out of our sales.”

In January 2011, long, disillusioned emails circulated between franchisees, each one recounting their difficulties and doubts in regards to their weak margin, sometimes non-existent… Then throughout 2012, it was the association Pepperoni that took the reins and took the combat to management, who also wanted to raise the price of “food.” A good article which was discreetly published last year on the “Nouvel Observateur” website summarized clearly the situation, describing the extremely tensed relations.

In the course of aggressive exchanges in the summer of 2012, one of the representatives of the association, himself owner of numerous stores and considered as one of the most solid of the network, condemned the “sales race” of management, an economic model that would be “trickery,” and mentioned colleagues “in difficulty, some even ruined.” For Serge Méresse, the lawyer of the association, “there is a strong attachment to the network, to the brand and to the product by these entrepreneurs. Certain franchisees have been here since the arrival of the brand on the territory, 24 years ago. They like their job and don’t accept certain financial demands of the Australians.”

“I work 90 hours a week for 800 euros a month”

Management finally renounced its plans to raise the prices of “food,” but the heated discussions left its marks, and perhaps was the final straw for Mélanie Farcot-Gigon, the former marketing director, who was president of the group for three years. Last June, she resigned to make way for Andrew Rennie. The latter doggedly defends the HVM system: “It is a model that is misunderstood, but I am very determined, and we will maintain our choices.” Even in 2014, with the rise of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the rise of the advertisement fee voted by the franchisees? “Of course, and it is the time to be even more aggressive. A lazy way to manage one’s business is to place the rise of costs on the consumer. It is not mine.”

We do not know how such declarations will be received by this franchisee who established his store in a small city in the south. “The work does not scare me, but I work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for less than 1,000 euros a month. I invested more than 300,000 euros into my business. I would have done better to leave my money in the bank!” His store is collapsing and yet… “I followed all the advice they gave me. I even went door-to-door giving free pizzas. I even practiced sales at a loss, which is illegal, by selling pizzas for 5 euros at noon.” Others owners confirmed already practicing sales at a loss.

A second franchisee, from another modest southern town affirms having worked “90 hours a week for six and a half years, without a single day of vacation.” An insane rhythm for… “less than 800 euros a month.” The diagnosis of these two disillusioned entrepreneurs? “There are franchises that work very well, but the model cannot function everywhere. In the small cities, the population isn’t dense enough to be able to reach a sufficient number of customers in less than 30 minutes of their order. ..” An expert estimates that “short of 40,000 mailboxes in the customer catchment area, you can’t hope to make a living.”

A former affiliate who owned several stores and hung up his gloves fifteen years ago, all the while staying on good terms with management, delivers his diagnosis: “My opinion is that, from an economic point of view, it will always be very complicated. The blueprint, invented in the United States, is applicable there and in other countries where social legislation is weak. But not in France, where the cost of manpower is much higher, where you have to sign permanent contracts and where you do not pay your delivery men on the basis of the numbers of deliveries. And then, in the United States, the guys often come with their own car, for which they’re compensated a little. But in France, you have to manage the purchase of mopeds, gas and vehicle maintenance…”

The Commercial Court already judged that Domino’s Pizza was profitable

Today, the doubts about the viability of the economic model are discretely seen in a part of the network. But the arguments unfold much more outright before the Commercial Court of Paris, where the franchisees of Pau, Toulouse, Bayonne, Orléans and Avignon have initiated Court Proceedings.
Christian Dulac, at the head of two stores in Pau, was the first to take the plunge in December 2011. Outlining the non-profitability of the concept and the wishes of Domino’s to conceal it during the recruitment of the franchisees, he claimed for the voidance of his contract as well as for damages for about four million euros. The first instance Court judgment rendered on the 5th of June 2013, dismissed his claims.

The Court, composed of entrepreneurs, notably considered that Domino’s had presented to the Bar sufficient earnings on the profitability of its network, underlining the very important increase of the number of stores and the fact that, from 2002 to 2009, only three of them had closed. The company regularly congratulates itself of this judicial recognition, notably in the context of the pending trials. It nevertheless lodged an appeal against the judgment. Why? Without a doubt because it also highlights its curious manner of managing its relations with its points of sale.

In response to the attack from its franchisee, the brand called for him to pay about 500,000 euros of debt that his two stores would have accumulated in eight years. But the Court estimated that about 330,000 euros were claimed without justification: in June 2009, Domino’s had signed new franchise contracts for those two stores from Pau in order to ratify (lately) the arrival of the Australians, and nowhere was there any mention of the debts. The court then considered that there was no reason for the sums to be claimed with regards to debts prior to June 2009.

Speed Rabbit in ambush

This type of information makes happy Daniel Sommer, the boss of Speed Rabbit Pizza, one of the main competitors of Domino’s who is also suing the company before the Commercial Court of Paris. In March 2012, he initiated Court Proceedings for unfair competition. His arguments resume many of those of the franchisees at war with their former franchiser, but they are more systematic.

“Domino’s developed a global strategy of competition eviction,” attacks Daniel Sommer. To ensure its hegemony and a monopoly in the field, it has been multiplying the illicit practices and frauds to the financing of the franchisees, practicing abusively low prices, an unbridled and most costly marketing, and thus creating a barrier at the entrance of the pizza market. And when the stores are in bad position, they only rarely close because the franchiser buys them back for a ridiculously low price, or asks another franchisee, on more solid ground, to take them.”

In 2002, Sommer had referred to the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression (French Government Agency “DGCCRF”) to denounce the practices of his competitor, but his case was dismissed by the National Competition Authority. He did not abandon, far from it. Ever since, he has lead judicial guerilla warfare from all directions against his competitor, and those who he considers to be his accomplices, active or passive. “At the end of the years 2000, we were posting a network and group operating result of more than 4.5 million euros a year, with an expected growth of 500,000 euros a year. In 2012, we stagnated around 1.8 million euros. We had 130 points of sale and were opening 10 to 20 new ones a year. Today, we now have no more than 99,” he details.

To support his claims, this public works engineer by trade and brand name owner since 1999, is not afraid of anything. Of course, he backs the approach of the seven Speed Rabbit franchisees that are also attacking Domino’s before the Commercial Court of Paris (“They have my judicial, financial, moral and emotional support…”). But he also employs two full-time legal experts (at one point, there were five) and meticulously, even obsessively, collects any and every element that allow him to back up his accusations for more than ten years.

It is true that he knows the world of pizza well. He heads A. Horecol, a business specializing in the creation of premises and after-sales service, notably for restaurant and hotel professionals. Since 1995, it has been the business that equips, practically from the floor to the ceiling, all of the SRPs and Pizza Huts, many of the Boîtes à Pizza, independent stores and… several Domino’s!

For Daniel Sommer, no doubt it is because Domino’s “forgets” to claim for payment of their bills to its franchisees that the latter are able to reduce prices in huge proportions and crush the competition, all while keeping their head out of water. A trick that principally comes down to the time limit in which delivered merchandise (the “food”) is paid for, or not. Legally, in the food industry, perishable foods – which account for 75% of the money that a franchisee sends to Domino’s each month – have to be paid to the supplier in the thirty days after the end of the ten-day period of delivery (for example, for a delivery on the 5th of the month, the thirty-day period would begin on the 10th of the month). But it all seems to point to the fact that the tacitly allowed time limits are much more elastic, and can fuel a debt problem that grows at regular intervals until becoming sometimes huge.

Sommer and his teams have spent entire days scrutinizing all of the accounts of Domino’s and its affiliates. They noted that from 2002 to 2010, the budget item “client debts” of the franchiser was always substantial, varying from 3 to 13 million euros a year. They estimate that it is disproportionate in relation to its sales numbers. “These are the debts of the franchisees, and it is totally skewing the competition!” storms the head of Speed Rabbit. Answer from Domino’s? They estimate quite the opposite, that the amounts of the debts are “usual and conform” in relation to the sales numbers. According to the President Andrew Rennie, 97% of his troop pays less than 30 days after billing. “And negligent payers have to pay for deliveries immediately,” he points out. Indeed, Mediapart has knowledge of several cases of small franchisees that don’t make out well financially and are obliged to pay for their orders upon delivery or risk seeing all supplies stop.

As for Serge Méresse, the lawyer for several franchisees, he estimates that even the failures to comply with time limits are not so serious: “the fact that there is no brutality in the relationship between a franchiser and the franchisees, which are very dependent, is frequent enough. Moreover, in the majority of cases, it’s the franchisee which imposes his own delays without being urged by anyone else.”

Several franchisees have accumulated more than a million euros in debt

In reality, it seems that the Brand is more lax with its “big” franchisees, established for years in significant cities and possessing several stores, than with the “little ones” and new arrivals. It is what the most important of the franchisees, Kamel Boulhadid, admitted himself. At the head of 36 stores who employ 900 workers, this entrepreneur from the suburbs of Strasbourg is located in the east as well as in one part of l’Île-de-France. His shops bring in about a quarter of the entire sales of the network.

Questioned in autumn 2009 by the Colmar (Haut-Rhin) branch of the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression, Kamel Boulhadid recognized that for two of his companies, the payment limits, supposedly within 40 days, were largely off the mark, going from 63 to 202 days! And at the moment of the audit, one bill was still unpaid almost one year after its issue. “This exceedance of time limits was tacitly accepted and tolerated by the franchiser,” indicated the entrepreneur in the record (to consult underneath). According to him, this tolerance allowed him to develop, and even take back stores in difficulty: “My franchiser is going to exonerate me temporarily from the payment of bills owed to him and ease my cash flow so that I use it as part of my acquisitions… (…) This policy of favors at the opening of new stores continues today according to the same set of measures.”

According to the writ of summons before the Commercial Court of Speed Rabbit’s against Domino’s, these abnormal time extensions were also noticed in a dozen of other cities. It is difficult consequently to hear the explanations of Andrew Rennie, who assures that the franchisees possessing large amounts of debt “are no longer here today,” and that they had taken advantage of a formerly weak management. This version is moreover contradicted by one of the staunchest current opposers of the company, the former franchisee from Toulouse, Gilles Bourbigot. “Between May 2003 and December 2004, I opened three stores.

And I simply lived a trip through hell,” he fumes, bitter. He who attacked Domino’s Pizza France in January 2012 and claimed for about 3 million euros from the company, recalls that in 2011, he had accumulated 1.4 million euros of debt towards his franchiser!

It is thanks to Daniel Sommer that all of these numbers are now made public. Domino’s Pizza France, and the majority of its franchisees, were not filing their accounts, which is illegal. Speed Rabbit then entered into a titanic combat and was victorious in correcting this failure. He first obtained from the Commercial Court of Nanterre on April 12, 2011 that the parent company be forced to file its accounts, or face severe fines. Considering that the company did not enforce and then omitted certain documents, Speed Rabbit obtained three additional Court Orders imposing them to pay these financial penalties. Today, Andrew Rennie simply pleads “bad practices from the past”: we thought that our procedures were correct. They were not, and we were poorly advised.” Flimsy explanations without a doubt, in view of their ill will displayed up to this point.

For the same reason, Sommer, the President of Speed Rabbit also sued about thirty of the franchisees throughout France. He obtained systematic convictions… except when the targeted companies had complied just before the hearing. “Daniel Sommer’s strategy is to create hysteria and destabilization in the network,” laments Olga Renaud, lawyer of several franchisees within Serge Méresse’s law firm. Her clients wouldn’t want to “harm a competitor, but these are small-time entrepreneurs who do often commit negligence.” Méresse estimates that for his part it’s about “a classic of the genre, that doesn’t lead to consequences. Often, a store manager just doesn’t want his competitors to know their results.” The strategy of Speed Rabbit has nevertheless been deemed sufficiently preoccupying to involve that on October 31, 2012, Domino’s organized a meeting for more than four hours with around ten franchisees and their lawyers to find common judicial responses.

Speed Rabbit even attempted to sue … Jérôme Cahuzac!

Daniel Sommer didn’t stop there, multiplying the Court Proceedings. He even summoned before payment and then attempted Court Proceedings against… Jérôme Cahuzac, for non-publication of the accounts his company, Cahuzac conseil (which Mediapart mentioned the existence on the hereby site)! He estimated that as budget Minister, Cahuzac had a duty to show the example. The Court Proceedings were abandoned after the departure of the Minister from the government.

As early as May 2007, Daniel Sommer had also referred to the Commission of the Examination of Commercial Practices, an authority situated in Bercy and charged with examining commercial relationships between producers, suppliers and retailers. The notice made public comforts him in his analysis, since such notice estimates that in a third of the files of the examined franchisees, the time limits of payment “can be considered excessive.” The Commission estimates that they are “by all evidence, in large part, the effects of insufficient profitability” of certain franchisees.

Immediately after in October and November 2008, Speed Rabbit launched 16 complaints towards the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression as well as towards its regional and departmental branches on the question of the abusive time-limits of payment. As early as November 20, 2008, one of the assistant directors of the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression confirmed by letter that, if the facts were recognized, Domino’s Pizza France “could possibly be sued for complicity.”

The organism launched a national inquiry in 2009 in the sectors of pizza delivery and ready-made meals. According to a summary of its investigations (available here in PDF) 300 audits were carried out in all, and anomalies turned up in “48% of the cases.” Concerning Domino’s in particular, “in nine of the twelve regions where audit took place, regulated payment time limits were respected,” concluded the text. Which then highlights on the other hand, “in two regions (Pays de la Loire and Île-de-France), important and quasi-systematic time exceedances were found.”

Loans granted directly by Domino’s

Finally, only four records were addressed to Domino’s, for “absence of respect of billing rules” and “non-respect of payment time limits,” and the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression passed on the information to the Public Prosecutor’s Departments of Orléans and Nanterre, who each opened a preliminary investigation against a franchisee. The one in Orléans, who has since then sued Domino’s, declared during his examination by the judiciary police that he was only an “additional victim of the system put in place by Domino’s Pizza France, which does not allow for either profitability or cost-effectiveness.”

This is only a half-victory for Speed Rabbit and its boss. The latter estimates that the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression did not catch enough franchisees, and he multiplied the Court Proceedings against the institution, who refuses to give him the papers drafted further to the audits. The General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression went as far as the Council of State (“Conseil d’Etat”) to contest giving him the right to consult them. But the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression finally indicated to him that they had relaunched an investigation on the sector in 2013. No results are known at the moment.

There are yet other subjects that deserve an opinion from the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression. The question, notably, of loans granted by the franchisee to his troops. It is what had been negotiated with Gilles Bourbigot, of Toulouse, after the arrival of the Australians from DPE. “After 2006, I continued to not pay bills, but in July 2008, my enormous debt was transformed into a loan, granted directly by Domino’s Pizza France,” he explains. “In an Out-of-Court settlement, we agreed that I would pay 900,000 euros of debt for several years with interest payments of 7% a year.” According to a franchisee still present in the network, “The loans were approved by the partner banks of Domino’s, but also by the company itself. It was common practice for years.”

This point is delicate. Effectively, Article L511-5 of the Monetary and Financial Code establishes that “it is forbidden to any person other than a credit establishment to carry out bank operations on a regular basis.” Did Domino’s Pizza overstep boundaries in granting loans that it did not have the right to give out? It all comes down to the words “on a regular basis.” For Serge Méresse, “when loans correspond to responses on a case by case basis, facing temporary difficulties, it’s completely authorized.” Domino’s raises the same arguments, which are of course contested by Speed Rabbit. It is true that the practice has been repeated. Kamel Boulhadid also explained to the General Direction of Consumption, of Competition and of Frauds Repression that he had “gone ahead with a loan of 1,020,899 euros” from his franchiser. And in June 2012 Augustin Estar, the ex-franchisee from Bayonne, had been offered a “proposition to spread out (his) debt payments (…) over three years for a total amount of 77,930 euros,” with 4.8% interest.

Condemnations for “voluntarily concealed employment”

But sometimes there’s no need for legalisms to judge the illegal character of certain practices. Thus, several entrepreneurs of the network were condemned by Labor Courts for non-declaration of supplementary hours. Between 2010 and 2013, various Courts of Appeal judged some cases of employees contesting their contract or salary. A dozen of condemnations were ordered, of which five contain references to supplementary unpaid hours. There were even two striking cases of intentional concealment. In December 2012, Hocine Benamara was thus condemned by the Court of Appeal of Versailles, notably for “voluntarily concealed employment.” Yet this franchisee from Île-de-France had formerly presided Domino’s Pizza France from November 2005 to November 2006. One can therefore presume that he knows very closely the conditions in which a store is profitable.

The second condemnation for “concealed employment” ordered in March 2013 in Toulouse, concerns Gilles Bourbigot, the ex-franchisee in rebellion. Today he acknowledges point blank having cheated. “Clearly, I had questionable business practices, but just like many of my colleagues,” he declares. “In pizza, you need a lot of manpower. And at Domino’s, in order to be successful, you have to manage so that the guys are not paid as much as they should be.” But he had also decided to get back on the straight path even before his condemnation. “I had a very strict system installed of “fingerprinting,” where every minute worked was accounted for. I instantly paid 10% more in personnel fees. And when I proposed helping to install this system throughout the whole network, headquarters never responded to my offer…”

The biggest franchisee sues the company for “forgery and use of forged documents”

Today at the head of the company, Andrew Rennie intends to keep a distance from all of the legal battles. “I leave those questions to the lawyers. Me, I’m just a pizza guy. I think about pizza when I eat, when I breathe and when I dream. And my goal is clear: in five years, go from 230 to 500 French stores, and from 5,500 to 11,000 employees. For that, we will invest 30 million euros, notably into a very efficient digital system.”

The announced goal does little to make his competitors shake in their boots. But to achieve it, Rennie will have to take out of his shoe one big pebble; according to our information, Kamel Boulhadid, the most important French franchisee, has decided to slam the door. He gave a notice to leave the company the 30th of June 2014. And, just for good measure, he has initiated two Court actions against Domino’s.

A complaint for breaching commercial relations was filed at the Commercial Court of Paris in November. The franchisee, who did not respond to our request for an explanation, did not accept the fact that, in 2012, without real justification the chain refused to allow him to open a store in Thionville (Moselle). It was at the worst moment of negotiations led by Boulhadid, on behalf of Pepperoni, against the price-raising of the “food.” He would have been informed that he could not open any stores anymore although he intended to develop again … 30. He is claiming several million euros in damages.

To complicate things, the company manager had submitted another complaint in September before the High Court of Nanterre, for “forgery and use of forged documents.” Preposterous motive: he assures that the company imitated his signature on 18 franchise contracts that he had in fact never signed during the openings of several of his stores. He is not sure at all if these complaints will be seen through to the end. It would be enough for the two parties to find a financial settlement so that the angry entrepreneur can withdraw them. But over the course of the negotiations, Kamel Boulhadid would have threatened to publicly unveil certain suspicious practices of the pizza chain. To better drag them down along with him in case of irreconcilable disagreement?

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Human Rights Watch a analysé durant deux ans 164 outils numériques destinés aux élèves de 49 pays durant la pandémie afin qu’ils puissent continuer à suivre leurs cours. 89 % « surveillaient les enfants, secrètement et sans le consentement de leurs parents ». Une enquête réalisée avec un consortium de 13 médias, dont Mediapart, coordonnés par The Signal Network.
par Jérôme Hourdeaux
Le casse-tête des enseignants français
Avec seulement deux applications mises en cause, la France fait figure de bonne élève dans le rapport de Human Rights Watch sur la collecte de données durant la pandémie. Mais, dans les salles de classe, la situation est en réalité plus complexe, notamment en raison de l’usage d’outils non validés par le gouvernement.
par Jérôme Hourdeaux
Journal — Fil d'actualités
Au Texas, au moins 21 morts dont 19 enfants dans une tuerie : Biden appelle à « affronter le lobby des armes »
Le président américain Joe Biden, visiblement marqué, a appelé mardi à « affronter le lobby des armes » pour prendre des mesures de régulation, alors que l’Amérique vient de replonger dans le cauchemar récurrent des fusillades dans des écoles.
par Agence France-Presse
Journal — International
Au Pakistan, la température frôle les 50 °C et accable les plus pauvres
Classé en 8e position parmi les pays les plus à risques face au changement climatique, le Pakistan vient de subir une vague de chaleur quasi inédite. D’Islamabad à Karachi, des millions de personnes ont fait leur possible pour assurer le quotidien dans des conditions extrêmement difficiles.
par Marc Tamat

La sélection du Club

Billet de blog
L’Âge de pierre, de terre ou de raison ?
Le monde du BTP doit se réinventer d’urgence. Les récents événements internationaux ont révélé une nouvelle fois son inadaptation face aux crises de l’énergie et des matières premières. Construire avec des matériaux locaux et peu énergivores devient une évidence de plus en plus difficile à ignorer pour ce secteur si peu enclin au changement.
par Les Grands Moyens
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Quartier libre des Lentillères : construire et défendre la Zone d’Ecologies Communale
« Si nous nous positionnons aux côtés des Lentillères et de la ZEC, c’est pour ce qu’elles augurent de vraies bifurcations, loin des récits biaisés d’une transformation urbaine encore incapable de s’émanciper des logiques délétères de croissance, d’extractivisme et de marchandisation. » Des architectes, urbanistes, batisseurs, batisseuses publient une tribune de soutien aux habitants et habitantes du Quartier libre des Lentillères à Dijon.
par Défendre.Habiter
Billet de blog
Raphaël Boutin Kuhlmann : « Les coopératives locales portent l'intérêt général »
Parti s’installer dans la Drôme en 2016, où il a fondé la coopérative foncière « Villages Vivants », Raphaël Boutin Kuhlmann est devenu une figure des nouvelles manières de faire territoire. Dans cet entretien, il revient sur la nécessité de penser autrement l’intérêt général et sur les espoirs qu’il place, face aux crises contemporaines, dans l’innovation et le lien dans les villages.
par Archipel des Alizées
Billet de blog
L'espace public, un concept « vide » ?
Comme le souligne Thierry Paquot dès l’introduction de son ouvrage, « l’espace public est un singulier dont le pluriel – les espaces publics – ne lui correspond pas. » Alors que le premier désigne grossièrement la scène du débat politique, les seconds renvoient à une multiplicité de lieux (rues, places, jardins, etc.) accessibles à tous et la plupart du temps relevant d’une propriété collective.
par Samuel PELRAS