Nova Scotia

King of Donair sues Alberta shops ahead of Calgary expansion

King of Donair is trying to maintain its savoury crown ahead of expanding into Western Canada, starting with Calgary.

'People get confused, and think we're out there already,' says King of Donair owner

The donair has become an iconic East Coast food. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)

King of Donair is trying to maintain its savoury crown ahead of expanding into Western Canada, starting with Calgary.

The Halifax-based restaurant chain is suing similarly named Alberta donair shops for trademark infringement, after doing the same to Vancouver's Donair King last fall.

"People get confused, and think we're out there already because of similar names," owner Norman Nahas said Monday.

'Rip off the name'

The company's lawyers have surveyed the country to find similarly named donair shops, Nahas said. Most have been out of business, or when contacted, agreed to remove the brand, he said.

But King of Donair is alleging King Donair and Shawrama, King Donair and King Shwarnae Donair, all registered under the numbered company 974819 Alberta Ltd., are active, and infringing on its trademark, according to a statement of claim filed in April. 

"We were the first ones to introduce it, and ultimately I found it as a compliment that people are trying to take a rip off the name," Nahas said.

Iconic Halifax chain King of Donair is looking to expand west. (King of Donair)

Royalty theme

A number of restaurants around Canada sell a variety of the pita-wrapped, sweet sauce-topped meat sandwich, said to have been invented in Halifax in the 1970s. 

In Alberta, other companies have a royalty theme, for example Queen Donair and Simon King Donair in Edmonton. 

"Queen of Donair is different, but you start calling yourself King Donair, it's quite similar to King of Donair," Nahas said. 

King of Donair was one of several Halifax restaurants to participate in a donair crawl last month. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Expansion west

This has been a big year for the Halifax King of Donair brand, capitalizing on the food's countrywide fandom.

Just last fall, Halifax declared the donair its official food

"It definitely received a lot of coverage," Nahas said. "It was very polarizing, so it definitely got people hungry."

Donna Lawlor prepares a donair at King of Donair after Halifax regional council voted 12-4 in favour of a staff report to consider approving the donair as the official food of the municipality. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)

Calgary next

Then King of Donair tested the waters for expansion west, home to many East Coasters, with a highly publicized and welcomed pop-up shop in Calgary.

The events were so popular that one scheduled for Banff's Sunshine Village was cancelled by officials worried about crowd control. 

King of Donair is eyeing Calgary for its first shop, while looking at other western cities, too, Nahas said. 

Hundreds lined up for hours to get a taste of Halifax's King of Donair in Calgary. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

No response

A Federal Court of Canada search shows 974819 Alberta Ltd. has yet to file a statement of defence. 

However, King of Donair alleges it previously wrote to King Donair, asking it to "cease and desist from its infringing and otherwise unlawful activities," but to no effect, court documents say.

"It comes down to having a national brand that there isn't really out in that area right now," Nahas said.

Calls to King Donair and its related restaurants were not returned.

Nahas said he wasn't aware of any other active trademark suits by his company.

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.