Kuma’s Corner — the heavy metal burger bar chain that debuted 15 years ago in Avondale — is figuring out its next move after allegations surfaced that leadership created a toxic workplace. The company, which also has locations on Fulton Market and suburban Schaumburg, was the subject of several Instagram posts that criticized Kuma’s Director of Operations and President Ron Cain for homophobic, sexist, and racist behaviors. In the context of the Black Lives Matters police brutality protests, there’s also criticism of Kuma’s food discount for police officers.
The posts from Kuma’s workers first appeared in June. They detail stories of unfair treatment, insensitive remarks, and failures to address harassment claims. Last week, Kuma’s issued an apology on social media, announcing a new direction for the company. Kuma’s pledged to institute “third-party led diversity and interpersonal sensitivity training.”
“We are taking a number of steps to ensure that as a company we provide a diverse, safe, and positive environment for everyone on our team at all of our stores,” the post reads.
“The ownership/leadership of Kuma’s Corner recognizes that in some cases it has failed to foster a safe, non-threatening, and inclusive work environment,” the statement also reads.
The company also announced that Kuma’s had elevated longtime employee Luke Tobias to “take over all aspects of management and operations of Kuma’s Corner from here on.” Past employees hailed the decision and Tobias’s promotion. However, Block Club Chicago reports Tobias, who has been with the company since 2008, has resigned days after his appointment. Tobias said he just shared different philosophies “that just aren’t going to work together.”
Meanwhile, Cain remains at the company, but his role hasn’t been defined. In an email sent last week to workers, he again apologized. He also said he wasn’t “going away and, if you feel you interests are best served addressing them with me, I remain available.”
Cain’s brother, Mike Cain, founded Kuma’s in 2008. They’ve since opened locations in Denver and Indianapolis. Known for loud music and thick burgers named after metal and punk bands, the chain also gained the attention of the Catholic church for the controversial Ghost burger that came with a communion wafer. Kuma’s garnered a huge following, and even hosted a music festival. Ron Cain has handled the operations after Mike Cain moved out of Chicago. Ron Cain’s wife, Sonia, also worked for the company. Instagram posts criticized her role as head of Kuma’s HR.
Kuma’s did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In other news...
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