Brown's, Domino's and Beyond: Business Felled by Crime, Scandal

PHOTO Browns Chicken adn Dominos have both faced issues with the law

What's enough to keep customers away from a restaurant for good? Try a video of an employee blowing his nose on a sandwich and putting a dish-washing sponge where the sun don't shine.

Domino's Pizza says that five months after the debut of an infamous video showing two Domino's employees doing bizarre, unsanitary things at a Conover, N.C., restaurant, the franchise location has closed due to flagging sales.

"The store never really rebounded," said Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre. "You've got an innocent business owner who lost his livelihood and there are 20 fellow employees who lost their jobs because these two people thought they were being funny, and it's tragic."

Dumb criminals

The Conover Domino's franchise may be the latest restaurant to shutter its doors after a crime -- in this case, food-tampering -- but it's certainly not the first. Among the most prominent examples is Brown's Chicken, a restaurant chain that closed multiple eateries after the 1993 murders of seven employees at the chain's Palatine, Ill., location. The second of two defendants in the murder case was convicted this week.

"When it's serious enough, bad enough, and scary enough for your personal sense of well being that it takes on a life of its own, that's when the business is in trouble," said Daryl Travis, the CEO of Brandtrust, Inc., a Chicago-based branding firm.

Consumers are more likely to remember negative news about a business than positive news, Travis said.

VIDEO: Keeping Restaurants Safe

"That's why it's dangerous for brands to not behave well," he said, "because one bad thing can send a brand down the tube and not be able to recover."

Below, we take a look at the singular events that led to the closure of several American businesses and franchises.

Brown's Chicken, Palatine, Ill.

It was one of Illlinois' most infamous crime scenes: a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine where seven workers were gunned down the morning of Jan. 9, 1993.

It took authorities until Tuesday to finally close the case, when James Degorski became the second of two men convicted for the killings. His accomplice, Juan Luna, was sentenced to life in prison after a conviction in 2007. A jury is now deciding whether Degorski will face the death penalty.

After the tragedy, Brown's business dropped 30 to 40 percent, according to the chain's Web site, and the multiple Brown's restaurants were closed, including the Palatine eatery.

'Too Much Baggage' at Brown's Palatine Site

Even with Brown's gone, commerce at its former home floundered. The restaurant was replaced by a dry cleaner but the business closed in 1994. For seven years afterward, the property's grisly history scared potential buyers and commercial renters away.

Finally, in 2001, a local businessman purchased the building and tore it down to make way for a parking lot, to the relief of many.

"It was time to move on. There was just too much baggage with that existing facility to further promote a strong, viable, commercial enterprise," then-Palatine village manager Michael Cassady told the Chicago Daily Herald.

Brown's, meanwhile, did bounce back. It said on its Web site that it found a "a new lease on growth" by introducing pasta to its stores and renaming the chain Brown's Chicken & Pasta. It eventually opened a Brown's Chicken & Pasta in Palatine, less than a mile away from the murder scene.

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