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CaliBurger Doubles-down on Burger Imitation

Issued: February 01 2012

Fans of the California-based burger chain In-N-Out have rejoiced over a clone of the popular chain which has popped up on Yanping Road in Shanghai. In-N-Out was not as pleased to find its Double Double burger on the menu in China, a country where it does not do business.

The US restaurant caught a lucky break, however, when it learned that the founders of CaliBurger were Americans with offices in Diamond Bar, California, less than an hour’s drive from In-N-Out’s corporate headquarters. Employees of the Chinese restaurant are open admirers of In-N-Out. Jonathan Wong, CaliBurger’s chef de cuisine, told the Los Angeles Times that In-N-Out was the model for CaliBurger. Wong formerly managed an In-N-Out in Northern California.

After In-N-Out filed suit in US District Court in Santa Ana, California, for trademark infringement and counterfeiting, CaliBurger agreed to tweak its menu and decor. In-N-Out issued a statement saying that the matter has been resolved. The CaliBurger Double-Double is now the trademarked CaliDouble.

Rumors began circulating among expats in Shanghai and In-N-Out fans that the chain was opening a branch in China when the as-yet-unnamed restaurant posted signs in English tempting would-be customers to “Enjoy a Double-Double” at its construction site. The California chain has expanded slowly, showing reluctance to expand outside of its historical base in California. After its founding in 1948, the chain did not open a restaurant outside California until 1992, when it opened a shop in Las Vegas. Eight years later, it opened a second out-of-state location; it now has 250 stores in five western US states.

Although the US chain has not announced expansion plans, it does appear to be testing markets in Asia and the Pacific, holding one-day burger tasting events recently in Shanghai and Sydney.

For its part, CaliBurger has announced growth plans. It hopes to open a second store in China and one in South Korea later this year, with expansion into other markets including Hong Kong and Taiwan. The company’s website suggests it wants to grow even larger, proclaiming that it is “Bringing the highest quality, freshest hamburgers, french fries, and shakes to Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe."



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