Banh Shop Controversy

Vietnamese community petitions Yum! Brands to change Banh Shop logo

Vietnamese community petitions Yum! Brands to change Banh Shop logo

Banh Shop in Dallas
Banh Shop logo features a red star. Photo by Marc Lee

Dismay over the logo for Banh Shop, the new banh mi concept launched by Taco Bell owner Yum! Brands, has ballooned: There is now a petition calling for the logo to be redesigned. The petition was authored on September 17 by Thanh Cung, president of the Vietnamese-American Community of Greater Dallas.

Cung, a resident of the Dallas area for nearly 30 years, says that the community is "deeply concerned" about the launch of Banh Shop. 

"While we are very pleased with the name of the restaurant, we are hurt and offended by your chosen logo, a red star, which is a symbol of communism and will offend thousands of South Vietnamese refugees in my community," he says in the petition. "The majority of Vietnamese living in the Dallas area are political and religious refugees who fled Vietnam when North Vietnamese communist rule started in 1975."

The objection is twofold: first that the restaurant's reference to "Saigon-style" food seems casual, given the fact that Saigon was overtaken in 1975 and renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Second, the logo includes a red star, which represents not only communism, but also the collapse of the city's democratic policies and subsequent evacuation.

Yum! Brands did not respond to requests for comment on the logo or the petition, which Cung said he launched for a few reasons.

"I felt it was my duty," he said. "Not only as president of the Vietnamese-American Community in Dallas, but as a refugee and a solider who fought alongside U.S. forces for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. I spent two years in a concentration camp and was tortured, starved and put down every day by the Communists. Seeing the logo for the Banh Shop hurts and offends me, and I'm not the only one who feels this way."

Nam Bam, who handles brand management for his employer, said that there is no objection to the idea of the restaurant, just the logo.

"I'm not boycotting their business model," he said. "I think it's an awesome idea, minus the branding. I think the purpose is to make Yum! Brands aware that this is a poor choice for a logo."

And while many in the community object, a few do not.

"Some people just will let things be and that's fine," Bam said. "I personally will stand up, say something and sign petitions along with whoever else will so that Yum! Brands will properly brand their restaurant chain based on Vietnamese food and culture and show respect to the Vietnamese people who now live in this country."

One dissenter said that the food wasn't good and the price was too high, so it didn't matter. "They sell their banh mi for Americans. Do you think they expect many Vietnamese customers to come there?" said Andy Le. "There are a lot of companies have this type red star logo, and the Vietnam flag has a yellow star, not red; red star doesn't mean Communist."

But the prevailing concern is that, as a representative of Vietnamese culture, they should get it right.

"This is their first prototype store," said Young Tran. "The second one will be at DFW International Airport. We're talking about a large corporation considering expansion across the United States. Their marketing department made a poor decision. They are misrepresenting the Vietnam language and history."