HopCat dubbed its dish “crack fries” because of its cracked pepper seasoning and addictive quality, said Mark Gray, CEO for BarFly Ventures, which operates the HopCat restaurant family along with Stella’s Lounge, Grand Rapids Brewing Company and the Waldron Public House in Grand Rapids. Gray admitted that the company was wrong to not consider those negatively affected by the popular drug of the same name.
“The crack epidemic and the lasting impact on those it affects is not funny and never was,” Gray said. “As we grow as a company, we have come to realize that to make light of this drug and of addiction contradicts our values of inclusion and community.”
The transition won’t happen overnight, according to the announcement. The change to a new name for HopCat’s fries will begin in January, the company said on its blog. A new name has not been announced, but Gray reassured his customers that the more-than-11-year-old recipe for the beer-battered fries, with salt and pepper among a secret blend of seasonings, is to remain unchanged.
All of the restaurant's menus, signs, and posters are in the process of being redesigned. HopCat leadership also needs time to update all other materials, including online menus, training documents, and promotions.
"People love Crack Fries, a lot of people love the name, but we thought it was time to make a change," BarFly Ventures spokesman Chris Knape said to USA Today. "Frankly, I've been thinking about it for years and getting different feedback through the years."
He also added that they are making sure the new name does not cause any trademark issues, and the change is expected to be made in time for HopCat's anniversary fry-eating contest in January.
Besides tap lists ranging to more than 100 different curated beers, Crack Fries are what HopCat is known for. When it opens a restaurant, HopCat has a tradition of offering many of its first customers free Crack Fries for a year. Food Network even named them one of "America's 10 Best French Fries."
HopCat, which has served and promoted the beer-battered, seasoned delicacies as its flagship item since its first brewpub opened in Grand Rapids in 2008, now has 17 locations, including one on Short Street in Lexington and Bardstown Road in Louisville.
“We are grateful for the support we’ve received over the years and your love of our fries,” Gray stated on the blog. “While we know it will take time to get used to this change, we are confident in our decision. It is not only the right thing to do, it reflects who we are.”