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Paul Hinton was so proud of his Hell Pizza store he had the company's logo tattooed on his neck.

He came to regret the decision after a dispute with bosses led to him losing the franchise - and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hinton is the latest in a line of Hell franchisees to complain about the chain's tactics.

He claims an employee was almost injured as the row turned nasty.

Hell Pizza director Warren Powell denied that and said he was forced to cancel Hinton's franchise agreement after he breached strict rules.

Hinton was involved with Hell for five years. He owned a franchise in Pukekohe, South Auckland, and helped to train new franchisees.

The problems began after he sold Powell a Hell-branded caravan used to sell pizzas at Warriors games and concerts at Mt Smart stadium.

Powell said the $60,000 he paid was too much and he agreed to the fee only because Hinton was a loyal franchisee. He also accused Hinton of withholding business contacts needed to run the caravan.

As the relationship soured, Hinton decided to sell the franchise to pursue other business ventures. He claims he had a buyer but the company scuppered the deal when it issued a notice terminating the franchise.

His lawyers decided the order was invalid and he continued to trade. The dispute came to a head when Powell turned up at the store on a busy Saturday night in April and removed hundreds of branded pizza boxes.

A staff member complained to police that he was nudged by Powell's car while trying to stop him from leaving.

Hinton added: "I was horrified. I didn't want the staff to put themselves in harm's way." The worker was uninjured and a police investigation found no offence had been committed.

Powell claimed the visit was amicable and he left enough pizza boxes for the store to stay open for the rest of the night.

"We are not bitter, we just needed to move on. He couldn't keep trading as Hell."

Hinton said he decided to speak out after months of personal turmoil. "It was painful that they would go after such a loyal franchisee. It's like a bad dream. We were doing everything by the book. They tried to ruin us."

Hinton's tattoo has been modified to resemble barbed wire but he said the emotional damage would linger.

In the past few weeks his fiancee has left him, and his mother and business partner has suffered from the strain of losing the business.

Last year franchise holders Natasha and Benji Thorn claimed they lost more than $300,000 after being forced from their store in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah.

Other franchise holders have claimed they were being held to ransom by the stringent demands of their agreements.

Powell said he made no apology for taking a tough line. "We have a reputation for being pretty aggressive in the market because we take things so personally. My delivery could use some social skills, I shoot from the hip way too often," he said.

Tauranga-based franchise lawyer David Foster said Powell was within his rights to remove the pizza boxes. "Any franchiser has the right to protect the brand from a franchisee who no longer has the right to operate."

Franchise New Zealand magazine publisher Simon Lord said 1-2 per cent of franchise contracts ended in dispute.