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Among the United States’ many family restaurant chains, TGI Friday’s holds a special place in many consumers’ hearts. The chain is known in particular for the potato skins from its appetizers menu, and people who love ordering these when they sit down at their local restaurant can also buy them in their grocery store’s frozen aisle. Even outside the frozen section, TGI Friday’s sells these skins as bagged snacks that have become popular at bodegas. A complicit understanding exists among consumers that these store-bought products don’t quite have the fresh-from-the-oven sour cream and chives that TGI Friday’s serves straight from its kitchens, but one shopper in the Bronx won’t stand for this discrepancy.
Solange Troncoso has brought a $5 million Manhattan federal court suit against TGI Friday’s for claiming its bagged snacks are potato skins when they really aren’t that at all. In the lawsuit she filed, she describes the snacks as just potato flakes and starch, not quite skins. In fact, her suit claims that TGI Friday’s actually disposes of potato skins when they make these “inferior” snacks. Potatoes must be peeled, her suit says, to make these bagged snacks, so why are there no skins in them?
Troncoso claims that, had she known the bagged snack didn’t actually contain potato skins, she wouldn’t have spent $1.99 at a bodega in her neighborhood to purchase it. Also stated in her suit is that under federal law, any food being sold is considered misbranded if it claims to be an imitation of another food without clarifying it isn’t real.
Furthermore, Troncoso suggests that TGI Friday’s is trying to take advantage of consumers who seek healthier snack options. In her suit, she claims that most people who head to a local bodega for snacks will see potato skins as a far more nutritious option than other things one might get at a convenience store — even if these snacks aren’t the real thing.
She even cites the Idaho Potato Commission and other industry sources as correlating potato skins with healthier eating, as restaurant appetizer and grocery snack options go. According to an article cited in her lawsuit, Richard Melman, CEO of the Chicago-area restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You, has claimed that he began offering potato skins at his restaurants because he learned that sailors relied on them to fight illness. As Troncoso sees it, this statement from a leading food industry and restaurant figure bolsters her claim that TGI Friday’s is indeed cashing in on consumers’ desires to eat healthier snacks.
For her lawsuit, Troncoso has hired a lawyer well-versed in similar food packaging and labeling matters. C.K. Lee is known for making headlines and angering businesses with lawsuits that allege food companies of using misleading packaging. In a statement, he claimed that TGI Friday’s is selling a “very processed product” instead of its staple item, which many associate with healthier eating.
Tronsoco filed her lawsuit as a class-action case so that other consumers can join her. TGI Friday’s has yet to comment on the matter.