Wichita restaurant ordered to ‘cease and desist’ using the name of a popular menu item

When Jon Rolph and his wife, Lauren, opened their first HomeGrown restaurant six years ago in Wichita, they wanted to include their “delicious handmade breakfast pastries” on the menu.

Common name: Pop-Tarts.

It did cross their minds at the time to question whether it was okay to use the name Pop-Tarts, said Rolph, president and CEO of Thrive Restaurant Group, which owns not only six HomeGrowns but also 13 Carlos O’ Kelly’s and 147 Applebee’s across the country.

But a thorough perusal of brunch restaurant menus from across the country showed that nearly all that made Pop-Tarts called them Pop-Tarts. So the Rolphs decided it would be okay if they did, too. Ever since, their Pop-Tarts, which are larger than actual Pop-Tarts and constructed using homemade pastry dough, have been a huge hit, Rolph said. Theirs come with interesting fillings like Key lime, Nutella, dulce de leche, strawberry and pumpkin pie.

As it turns out, though, calling a Pop-Tart a Pop-Tart is not OK.

Recently, Rolph told customers in a video posted on HomeGrown’s Facebook page, the company got a letter from Kellogg’s. It was a “cease-and-desist” notice alerting HomeGrown that it could no longer use the trademarked name “Pop-Tarts.”

Rolph was surprised, he said, but had no intention of fighting the request.

“It’s their trademark, so we need to do what’s right and move past it,” he said.

In the Facebook video, Rolph explained his plan and also asked customers for help. Upon receiving the letter, restaurant leaders immediately came up with a new name for the pastry: HG Tarts. They like the name, which is now on all the menus online, he said. But he’s not sure whether that name will stick.

Rolph asked people to share other ideas in the comments section of the Facebook post.

Kellogg’s, which owns the Pop-Tarts trademark, sent HomeGrown a cease-and-desist letter about the “Pop-Tarts” it’s sold for six years.
Kellogg’s, which owns the Pop-Tarts trademark, sent HomeGrown a cease-and-desist letter about the “Pop-Tarts” it’s sold for six years.

“Comment below, give us your ideas and maybe we can come up with a name that is ... not trademarked anywhere else,” Rolph said with a laugh.

On Wednesday afternoon, the post had just shy of 300 comments, most suggesting new ideas, some more serious than others. Among them: ICTarts, WichiTarts, Breakfast Ravioli, Not Pop Tarts, Crop-Tarts, Kindwich, Care Square, Wichita Strudel and Shock Tarts

One commenter suggested taking the petty route and calling them Kellogg Tarts, which would poke at the trademark owner but would also be an ode to Highway 54, which runs through town.

Another person suggested calling them Kansas Tarts and cutting off the upper right corner so they’re shaped like the state. Yet another had an idea for what to call the tarts at the new Kansas City HomeGrown restaurants: PaTARTS Mahomes.

Rolph said that because HomeGrown changes its menu every couple of months to keep it fresh and seasonal, changing the pastry’s name on the printed menu won’t be difficult. They may go with a customer suggestion or they may just stick with HG Tarts.

Either way, the threatening letter has turned into a fun way for HomeGrown to interact with its customers, Rolph said.

“We thought we’d just take the lemons and try to make lemonade and really try to engage the creativity of folks who love HomeGrown and eat these things every week,” Rolph said.