The menu at Hell Pizza contains dishes named Nemesis, Trouble and Wrath.

But such words could equally be applied to an ugly legal battle over the fast food giant.

The company's former owners are suing the chain's founders and current owners over claims of staff harassment and bogus complaints.

Mark Backhaus and Dennis Jones say their attempts to sell their last remaining franchise store in Albany has been blocked by Hell's original owners.

Their company Flame has filed court papers accusing the men behind the Hell brand of bullying and getting associates to make fake customer complaints.

But the founders hit back, arguing Flame had run "that franchise into the ground" and launching a counter-suit claiming damage to the Hell brand.

The ugly stoush erupted after Flame sold back Hell to its founders Warren Powell, Callum Davies and Stu McMullin last May.

Under the agreement, Flame kept the Albany franchise and was given six months to sell it.

Flame received an offer of $350,000 from a company called Kai Wen Enterprises, but the bid was rejected by Hell who said that the manager could not speak good enough English or even make pizza dough.

Court documents accuse Powell of conducting "an oppressive campaign of harassment" against the Albany staff. It alleges that Powell and a business associate spent evenings "monitoring" the store and "verbally harassed the staff to the point that one duty manager resigned".

During peak trading one day last July they insisted that "all orders stop while a special six-pizza order was made with each ingredient weighed before being placed on the pizza".

Staff were allegedly told to leave pizzas to go cold before being delivered, and were once told to throw out all pizza bases in stock for not being fresh - even though the dough had been made that day.

But last night Powell denied he had harassed staff at the Albany franchise: "It's completely untrue. I've been to that store twice and I've only dealt with the managers."

Powell said the proposed manager's English was so limited he came to meetings with a translator.

"When I asked him how long you cook pasta for, his response was for two months. They're trying to make us look like bad operators," said Powell, "but they ran that franchise into the ground. Our customers deserve better.

"We took photos of all pizzas coming out and they were of extremely poor standard," says Powell. "The manager refused to remake them. There's never been any harassment, that's just us protecting the brand. We take quality seriously."

Powell said their counterclaim was seeking the termination of Flame's franchise, compensation for damages to the Hell brand, reputation and business, costs and interest.