Why people are boycotting Byron burger restaurants

Byron Hamburgers.

Byron Hamburgers.

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Many burger-lovers have decided to put their taste-buds to one side and boycott the Byron high-end hamburger chain, following the story of an immigration raid.

Byron is a burger chain that aims to offer more than your usual fast-food, taking a North American approach that’s about doing “a simple thing well, and do[ing] it properly”.

The chain was originally started in London back in 2007 and sold to investment service Hutton Collins in 2013, for £100 million.

Byron now has over 50 restaurants across the UK – including Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle and Glasgow.

But the popular burger stop-off came under heavy criticism online over the last few days, with the hashtag #boycottByron trending across the UK.

Here’s why…

The raid

On July 4, the Home Office carried out a raid on Bryon’s restaurants across London – with 35 people from countries such as Egypt, Brazil and Nepal all being arrested and detained on immigration offences.

The statement from the Home Office said that Byron had shown “full co-operation” with the operation, and would face no charges for hiring workers with false immigration papers.

Byron confirmed that those suspected of breaching immigration laws had been removed, saying:

“We have co-operated fully and acted upon the Home Office’s requests throughout the course of the investigations leading to this action, and will continue to do so”

The accusation

Spanish publication El Iberico (The Iberian) recently reported that the rounded-up immigrants (many from Latin-American countries) had been lured into work on the day of the raid under the false pretences of a training day.

An anonymous worker told The Iberian that the workers were not five minutes into their training day, when two immigration policeman arrived and began to call in staff one by one.

He also believed that up to 15 Byron outlets were targeted.

The worker explained:

“People are angry and frightened by this situation. In the years I’ve been in the business I had never seen anything like it.”

The reaction

Many felt that Byron’s involvement in the scheme was underhanded, and betrayed workers (who they chose to employ) in order to save themselves from fines, with one user tweeting: “incredibly cruel to treat people that way, tricking them into attending a 'health and safety talk', abusing trust & authority”

As the story of the raid broke, people began sharing their anger using the hashtag #boycottByron:

There’s even talk of a demonstration at one of their prominent restaurants in the London area of Holborn next Monday:

The counter-argument

Others were less inclined to mock Byron for their decision to round-up those here illegally, and expressed their frustration at the idea of a boycott: “Such a middle-class protest...#BoycottByron. We're supposed to praise employers who keep hush about illegal workers???” tweeted one user.

Opinions on Byron’s actions remain split, but the claims certainly left a bitter taste in the mouth of many burger-lovers and has put the company in a PR pickle.

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