K&N Management, the company behind fast-casual restaurant chains Mighty Fine Burgers and the Austin franchise locations of Rudy’s Bar-B-Q, is facing criticism in response to Facebook posts by co-owner Brian Nolen’s wife Trina Nolen Schaff. Nolen Schaff appeared to post several anti-Black Lives Matter sentiments to Facebook the past two weeks as protests supporting black communities and calling out police brutality continue across the country.
A Georgetown resident shared screencaps of Nolen Schaff’s Facebook posts in a public post on Monday, June 8. The images show that on various dates in June, Nolen Schaff called Black Lives Matter “evil” twice, wrote that the movement isn’t “about the good,” and described it as a “radical anti-cop activist group.” The person wrote that in light of the posts, “I will never eat at Mighty Fine Burgers again.” Nolen Schaff’s Facebook account is no longer available publicly since that date.
K&N Management sent a letter addressing the Facebook posts to its employees yesterday afternoon, as shared by a Twitter user and confirmed by a rep for the company. The message, which was sent through a human resources messaging system according to the rep, emphasized that the posts were written “by an individual who is the spouse of one of our owners (who has no ownership and is not involved in any capacity with K&N).” It described those posts as “inappropriate and hurtful,” that it is “devastating” to the company’s reputation, and “frankly embarrassing that we are having to address this.”
The letter went on to say that the company is “striv[ing] to provide a safe, secure, and inclusive work environment free of bias or injustice,” and that it has “always believed black lives matter” and that there is “a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.” It also asked employees to reach out if they know of people who do not “support K&N values” so that it “can take action swiftly and justly.” It then asked employees to sign in acknowledgment of reading the letter.
In a statement sent to Eater, K&N emphasized that Nolen Schaff “has no ownership interest in the business and at our request has taken down the posts, which do not reflect our company’s point of view or values.” The rep also noted to Eater that “it would be unfortunate and unfair if the many employees of the company were injured by negative publicity generated by someone who is not involved in the company in any way.”
Employees of Mighty Fine say the issues at the company extend beyond Nolen Schaff’s Facebook posts. On Wednesday, former Mighty Fine employee Bri Branscomb shared her negative experiences of working at the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter, alongside with the original post.
Branscomb, who is black, recounted her two years of working at the burger restaurant in 2017, where, as a 16-year-old, she “was regularly the target of racist jokes and repeatedly made to be the victim of sexual assault and harassment.” She said her male coworkers openly talked about her appearance, and she spoke about the occasion when a coworker allegedly “forcibly shove[d her] face into his crotch while he murmured ‘maybe later baby, maybe later.’” She left the company in 2019.
Branscomb wrote that she isn’t “at all surprised to hear how the CEO and his family think of black lives,” in her post, “because it’s been painfully clear that I didn’t matter to this corporation from the beginning.” She added that she is “ashamed” that she worked at the company and that she is “deeply saddened to hear that my former employers would regard me as ‘evil’ for doing what is right,” referring to Nolen Schaff’s anti-Black Lives Matter sentiments.
Branscomb wanted to share her experiences publicly because of accountability. “For years, I and other coworkers were subjected to racist treatment and sexual harassment,” she told Eater. Whenever they reported these incidents, “nothing was done and the people abusing us were let off with a simple warning,” she said. She wanted people to know “where their dollars were going” if they continued to dine at the restaurants.
Hey if y’all don’t know, the founder of @mightyfinetx ‘s wife was exposed for being a vile racist. (I’ll post SC’s of her facebook rants below). As a former employee who was regularly subjected to racist discrimination, sexual harassment, and assault, I thought I’d share my story pic.twitter.com/3pU6VTyqLW— Bri (@bribrans) June 11, 2020
Mighty Fine’s official Twitter account responded to Branscomb’s Tweets, as well as others from former employees who claimed they experienced sexual harassment at the company. According to Branscomb, a representative reached out to set up a meeting between her and several people from the company, including one of the two co-owners, which means either Brian Nolen or Ken Schiller as confirmed by the company rep, but the exact date and time is still being determined.
In a statement, the rep told Eater that “Ms. Branscomb was an employee of our company for approximately two years. She had an excellent work record, received awards for her performance, and referred other people for employment. We have reached out to her to discuss the concerns she has recently raised on social media.”
Since the publishing of social media posts, people have flocked to Mighty Fine’s Instagram, Facebook, and Yelp pages, leaving messages of “Black Lives Matter,” sharing screencaps of Nolen Schaff’s posts, and asking others to boycott the restaurants. Currently, comments on Mighty Fine’s Instagram account are “limited,” and every comment on its Facebook page isn’t being displayed right now.
K&N co-founders Nolen and Schiller started developing Rudy’s locations in Austin in 1994 and opened Mighty Fine in 2007. In 2016, Mighty Fine fired an employee for allegedly making racist comments to a coworker at the Round Rock location of the restaurant.
Update, June 13, 9:40 a.m. This article, originally published on Friday, June 12, has been updated to clarify K&N’s role over Rudy’s Bar-B-Q.