Panera Bread is suing a former IT executive and his new employer, Papa John’s, alleging the pizza chain purposefully interfered with an employee contract to gain its technology trade secrets, according to a report by the St. Louis Business Journal.
Panera alleges that Michael Nettles—who served as a vice president of architecture in the bakery-cafe chain’s technology department—created personal copies of Panera documents containing sensitive information, which he plans to share with Papa John’s.
In the suit, Panera says Nettles had “privileged access” to the company’s technology plans for upcoming years and worked closely to develop the initiatives.
Panera details that Nettles signed a non-compete agreement including a list of competitors where employees cannot work for a specified period of time. According to the suit, Panera’s CEO denied Nettles’ request to be released from the agreement, though Papa John’s encouraged him to begin working anyway.
Panera says Papa John’s is a direct competitor and that its IT team has long been a target of Papa John’s.
Papa John’s responded to the suit in a statement saying, “At Papa John’s we take great pride in our culture and the talent we attract, and Mike Nettles is no exception. He is a 27-year veteran of the hospitality and retail industries and has worked at numerous concepts and companies. We are disappointed by Panera’s actions, as we do not consider them a competitive business. We have no need or desire to access Panera’s confidential or proprietary information.”
Panera is seeking injunctive relief, damages, attorney’s fees and a jury trial.
Restaurant Business has reached out to Panera for comment.