NYC sushi restaurant owner accuses Wegmans of stealing his concept and trade secrets

NYC sushi restaurant owner accuses Wegmans of stealing his concept and trade secrets
via @osakananyc
Michelle De Pacina
March 7, 2024
A New York City sushi restaurant owner has filed a lawsuit against Wegmans, accusing the grocery giant of stealing his restaurant concept and trade secrets.
Breach of agreements: The legal action from Yuji Haraguchi claims that Wegmans, after exploring a potential business partnership with Haraguchi, opened a similar fish market called Sakanaya (Japanese fish market) just three blocks away from Haraguchi’s Osakana restaurant in East Village. Haraguchi alleges that Wegmans breached non-disclosure and non-compete agreements signed in August 2023 through Wegmans’ fish broker, Culinary Collaborations. 
Concept theft: According to Haraguchi, he shared trade secrets to companies associated with Wegmans under business partnership agreement. The restaurant owner also noted signing a letter of intent in September. The lawsuit alleges concept theft, with Haraguchi citing the “uncanny and confusingly similar resemblance” of Wegmans’ Sakanaya to his Osakana restaurant.
“I disclosed all of my trade secrets, practices, and all the financial information,” he wrote in a petition. “I invited them to come into my store in the East Village and Midtown locations and showed them everything. They even took our sushi class.”
Backing out: In October, Haraguchi learned of Wegmans’ newly-opened fish market from a customer, and in November, the business partnership with Haraguchi was later revoked by Wegmans “without any logical explanation.” 
“That’s how they backed out the deal,” Haraguchi wrote in his petition. “They just disappeared. This was the most disgusting business practice I have ever experienced in my life. I would never have agreed with them if I knew their intention was just to steal my business practice and replicate it down the street.”
Wegmans’ response: Wegmans has since responded to the filed lawsuit, stating that they are aware of the legal action concerning its fish market at the Astor Place store. The company expresses confidence that the claims made against Wegmans are “without merit.”
Not the first time: Haraguchi contends that this is not Wegmans’ first instance of business theft, citing a similar incident involving Genji Sushi. He alleged that Wegmans’ sushi takeaway program began through the misappropriation of assets from Genji Sushi, resulting in a striking resemblance between Wegmans Sushi and Whole Foods Sushi.
Haraguchi’s plea: Haraguchi, who is also the founder of Japanese eateries Okonomi and Yuji Ramen, emphasizes the impact of the alleged theft on his small business and the 15 employees who depend on it. His petition demanding Wegmans cease Sakanaya operations has gained more than 4,000 signatures.
“I want the public to know that this is what a multi billion dollar company did against a minority owned small business like myself,” Haraguchi said. “I am raising my voice not just for myself, but also on behalf of the hard working small business owners. I did my best to stay out of court. However, they completely ignored my efforts and are currently operating Sakanaya like nothing ever happened.”
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