City suspends Brady Street Qdoba » Urban Milwaukee

Qdoba, 1348 E. Brady St.  Photo taken on September 19, 2020 by Marian Tzotchev

Qdoba, 1348 E. Brady St. Photo taken on September 19, 2020 by Marian Tzotchev

The Milwaukee Licensing Commission had some harsh comments regarding Ron Stokespresident and chief operating officer of Roaring Fork Restaurant Group, at a recent meeting.

Reason? A customer at the group’s Qdoba restaurant on Brady Street claims he found a razor blade in his food.

The incident, which occurred on Nov. 1, 2023, cost the plant 10 days of operations due to a suspension issued Tuesday by the Milwaukee Common Council.

Stokes, whose entity is one of the largest operators of Qdoba franchises in the country, addressed the council before making a final decision.

“This was a serious incident and someone could have been harmed, but closing the business for 10 days really does irreparable damage to our reputation,” he said. “Since this unfortunate incident, which we took very seriously, we have served 30,000 entrees without incident or complaint.”

According to a police report, a customer purchased a take-out burrito at 1348 E. Brady St. After heating and cutting the burrito, the customer said he found a razor blade inside the dish.

A photo of the blade, along with proof of the transaction, was provided to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, which then sent a representative to inspect the store. Milwaukee police officers also arrived at the scene.

The report said the blade “exactly matched” a safety knife used at the restaurant. It was found to have slipped out of the plastic burrito casing.

But Stokes wasn’t convinced by the story. During his May 29 license renewal hearing, he told committee members that none of the safety shears used at the restaurant were found to be missing blades.

“We never saw a razor blade,” Stokes said. “I think there is some discrepancy as to whether it came from our facility. Our internal investigation following this event calls this into question, but I’m not sure we’re here to dispute the facts. We have taken steps to ensure that if this does happen, it will not happen again.”

Stokes said the restaurant took “immediate action” to remove all safety knives from the premises. “We acted as if something had actually happened and took corrective action as a result of the report we received.”

Alderman Jonathan BrostoffHowever, she disagreed with both the presence of the razor blade and the restaurant’s explanation of the incident.

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate response given the seriousness of what we’re talking about in this case,” Brostoff said. “It could have been a lot worse, but it certainly raises a lot of other questions for me as well.”

Although he initially questioned the police report, Stokes later testified that “there is a very strong possibility that something like this actually happened.”

At the hearing’s conclusion, Brostoff recommended a 10-day suspension of Qdoba, noting that a shutdown “would be appropriate to clean up the situation and ensure that this type of situation never occurs again.”

He also suggested that Stokes use the time to provide additional employee training.

Alderman Scott Spiker submitted an application. There were no objections.

The matter was brought to the attention of the entire council on Tuesday, June 11.

Stokes, who submitted written objections to the committee’s recommendation, personally attended the meeting to appeal to council members.

In his brief remarks, Stokes called the suspension “a very radical measure” that could cause “irreparable damage” to the restaurant’s reputation.

“We have been good stewards in this community and on this street and we want to continue to do so and take our business of providing food to the community very seriously.”

He further stated that the restaurant, which first opened in April 2017, served 575,000 entrees and had “zero food-related incidents from the health department, food safety, foodborne illness or any other.”

Despite Stokes’ testimony, the full board upheld the recommendation, voting unanimously for the 10-day suspension.

The suspension took effect on Tuesday, June 11 and will last until June 20. The suspension applies to Brady Street Qdoba only. All other locations will continue to operate as normal.

Roaring Fork Restaurant Group operates approximately 60 Qdoba restaurants, 57 of which are located in Wisconsin. The group also operates several locations for Dave’s Hot Chicken.