Tel Aviv Eatery Settles in Suit Alleging It Served Pork to Customers Who Ordered Veal

Consumers are bringing home the bacon: Zepra will pay $700,000 in free food for diners over the course of four months

Zepra restaurant in Tel Aviv.
Dudu Bahar

A compromise was reached over the last year in a class action lawsuit alleging Tel Aviv fusion restaurant Zepra served customers pork when they ordered veal, leaving the eatery responsible for the payment of 2.4 million shekels ($700,000) in free food for diners over the course of four months. The class action suit was filed against the upscale restaurant five years ago, for serving pork that was labeled as veal in four of its menu items. As with many legal proceedings, particularly class action suits, several years went by in which lab tests revealed that pork had been used, posing as veal. Last January the Tel Aviv District Court accepted a request to deal with the file as a class action suit. The appellant, attorney Nataly Swery, was allowed to represent any customer who had ordered beef but received pork instead.

The claim relied on a kitchen worker who had worked at Zepra between 2007 and 2012. He testified that in May 2012 he noticed, and was told by restaurant managers, that the menu items labeled as veal contained pork.
The restaurant and its chef Avi Konforti argued that the claims, and the appelants' determination that the reason for using pork was that it was cheaper, were false. Revenues from these menu items were low compared to the restaurant’s total revenues, they added, and that attempts to save money at the expense of customers could have been made using legal and simpler methods.

They argued further that using pork for beef is not easy to hide considering the taste, color and texture of pork meat is completely different than veal. The restaurant also argued that two lab tests on two of the items in question were insufficient for providing substantial evidence. The tests were not linked to the specific items ordered, they claimed. Zepra also argued that the kitchen worker’s testimony was only hearsay, since he had no way of knowing what meat was being used in different menu items since he was not involved in cutting or preparing the meat. He was only relying on something he heard from the kitchen manager. The restaurant provided an affidavit by that manager stating that the kitchen worker’s claim was false. This made it at least a hearsay claim, argued the restaurant.

Over the last year the court approved a compromise settlement, according to which the appellant had proved her claim. Despite the restaurant’s rejection of this claim the two sides agreed on a compromise which was approved by the court on January 4, after almost five years of legal proceedings. 

In practice, the restaurant will provide its customers several benefits, at no cost and at all hours within 30 days from the date the compromise agreement was approved. These will change every four months and will amount to 2.4 million shekels ($700,000).

During the first four months every diner will get a starter called a “Hanoi crispy roll”, made of crumbly cassava-rice, minced tender chicken meat, skinny Kungjak noodles and fresh spices (value: 36 shekels). In the second four month period the restaurant will offer chai masala (value: 25 shekels). During the third four-month period the restaurant will offer every diner a glass of digestive wine (Sweet umeshu, valued at 36 shekels).

The awarding of these benefits will cease as soon as their cumulative value reaches the 2.4 million shekels specified in the compromise. Diners won’t be limited in the number of benefits they are entitled to in each period. Anyone showing up three times a week will get the benefit every time.

The two sides agreed that the appellants’ attorney would be paid 450,000 shekels ($130,000) in fees and that the appellant would receive 150,000 shekels.

The restaurant’s response: “Zepra denied and continues to deny claims made against it despite the compromise agreement, since no final decision was taken in the matter.”

“The restaurant has always operated under the highest professional standards, wishing to provide its customers a culinary experience that is unique and precise. Although Zepra feels that its conduct was without blemish and that this would have come to light if the legal process had continued to its end, it was willing to compromise in order to end the affair and cut the expenses involved so that resources could be devoted to the cause the restaurant was established for, namely making people happy with unique food transcending borders and cultures, in a pleasant setting which has been receiving international recognition for twelve years.”