Saturday, March 4, 2023


 Dear Readers,

Darren Hele

Have you ever phoned the head office of Famous Brands. The worst part has been that callers phoning its Johannesburg headquarters have had to pay for this deplorable brain washing session before they could be put through to the person they wanted to speak to.

          Here is the email I sent to the Group CEO Darren Hele:

          “Your Famous Brands might be the leaders in the fields in which they operate but when it comes to communications it is absolutely appalling. I phoned your head office in Johannesburg at 011 3153000 and asked for your PA so I could get your email address. What I got was the most unbelievable automatic reply recorded by a very friendly and well spoken lady. It was a huge plug for your group. She extolled the virtues of your various departments and went on and on and on. Every now and again she would say something like ‘It won’t be long before your call will be going through’, but that was just the trigger for a repeat of what she had already told me. It was so bad that at one stage I got so desperate I told her to ‘shut up’ realising afterwards what a ridiculous thing this was to say to a recording. To add insult to injury she made this absurd statement after she had been talking for ages ‘We realise that time is money.’ Have you ever listened to this??? Eventually I was put through to somebody who I assumed was your PA who said she would ring me back. This she did but by that time I had already got your email address from your Cape Town branch where the whole process took no more than a couple of minutes. When I told her I thought this long winded advertising plug callers to your head office are subjected to was terrible her reply was something like: ‘Yes I know but nobody wants to take responsibility for it.’”

          Famous Brands claims to be Africa’s leading branded food services franchisor and is known for brands such as Steers, Wimpy and Mugg & Bean among others. Its core principles it claims include integrity, quality and humility.

          My purpose in wanting to contact Hele concerned Wimpy’s Rib Burger. I believed its name was misleading. I had it twice at their Long Beach Mall branch in Cape Town and I was disappointed to find it contained no beef, which I believe should be the main ingredients of any Burger because that is what was in them when they were originally made.

          There are 453 Wimpies in South Africa and another 67 in the United Kingdom under the Famous Brand wing.

          I concluded my email to him with this: “Surely you don’t want to be famous for ‘When is a Burger not a Burger its a Wimpy’ and the world’s longest and most boring advertising blurb that callers to your head office are forced to listen to before being put through to the person they want to speak to?’

          Hele must be commended for being so forthcoming when I did get hold of him. This was his initial reply. “With regards to your comment about not being able to call this product a hamburger: You will have noted that the product is referred to as a Rib Burger. The prefix is common practice in the industry to refer to products that are not beef patties. I am sure you will be familiar with a number of such menu items amongst our competitors. This has been common and accepted practice for many years. This practice, aside from being a widely recognised naming convention, is also compliant with all applicable South African regulations, which we take very seriously.”

           If everybody else is wrong it doesn’t make it right.

          He added that the patty of their Wimpy Rib Burger was made using two pork cuts. A food expert who had a look at one for me described the patty as being of “processed pork like a Vienna sausage with probably very little actually off the rib bone.” So even the Rib description is in the fairy tale category.

          By some strange coincidence the word RIB can also mean to tease or to play the fool with someone so is that what Wimpy’s doing with its diners, who choose Rib Burgers.

          When it came to the switchboard promotion shocker he had this to say, “The poor service from our switchboard letting us down has been tracked down and a plan implemented to fix it. Thanks for highlighting this weakness.”

            I then asked for his P.A’s name saying: “Darren can you give me the name of your PA because I think she deserves the credit for getting you to sort out your telephone system and not me?”

         He replied: “Arlene Helberg”. Is that the lady who really should be running the show and not Hele?

        Regards to all you Wimpy diners,

          Jon, a fearless Consumer Watchdog.

 P.S. It looks as though Famous Brands will no longer be famous for the World’s Worst Promotion Advertisement on a Switchboard and as for the Wimpy Rib Burger you must be the judge. Are diners being ribbed with this Porky or are they getting a genuine Burger.

P.P.S. In the murky world of food naming the Department of Agriculture is faffing around with what should be legally called a Burger. One minute word spread that it was illegal to call something a Burger when it did not contain beef. But it seems the department has chickened out (is that description allowed) and for the moment even

Fry's Veggie Burgers

 “Traditional Burgers” from the Fry Family Food Company have been given the okay even though the makers described them as plant based.








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