Grill’d founder issues panicked email to partners

By Nick Hall | 02 Dec 2019 View comments

An upcoming story about wage theft at healthy burger chain Grill’d has reportedly prompted an eleventh-hour reassurance email from founder, Simon Crowe.

According to several reports, Crowe sent an ‘urgent’ email to staff and franchise partners last week revealing that the chain was likely to feature in a media story that alleged worker exploitation.

The panicked email was revealed after UTS journalism student Alex Turner-Cohen posted a tweet that a “story about Grill’d burgers committing #wagetheft coming out soon.” Accompanying the tweet was a copy of Crowe’s email, which slammed the alleged misconduct.

“We are aware of a pending media story that will wrongly claim we have worked against the interest of our franchise partners, and our restaurant teams, including how we conduct our training,” the email reads.

Grill’d in the spotlight

It’s been a sordid few months for the hospitality industry, with a number of high-profile groups found to have committed reprehensible acts of employee exploitation.

Celebrity chef George Calombaris was found to have underpaid staff close to $8m at his restaurants, costing him not only his job as host of Masterchef Australia, but also his once revered Hellenic Republic outlet, which closed this week.

Tensions hit fever pitch in November when the a parliamentary committee in Queensland released a report on wage theft, placing all industries on high alert.

While Grill’d appears to be the latest brand to come under the microscope, it isn’t the first time the burger business has faced scrutiny. Back in 2015, Grill’d was forced to increase wages for staff after an employee applied to terminate a WorkChoices-era pay deal.

The Fair Work Commission ruled that the deal resulted in serious underpayment, demanding that the business replace the pay structure with award entitlements. Of major concern this time around is the company’s training system.

Response

Turner-Cohen’s original tweet, which now includes a video sent to franchisees, has since garnered a number of comments that suggest the Grill’d training system is deeply flawed.

“I worked at Grill’d start of the year and was paid as on an ‘apprenticeship wage’ to come out with a useless certificate so I could be paid $13 at 19,” one commenter posted.

“I was expected to complete hours of endless modules for the company and traineeship unpaid at home. Worst experience of my life.”

In Crowe’s email, he suggests that the company is working on improving the current operation standards and procedures.

“At Grill’d we are always seeking to improve our business systems and processes and we have worked hard to make Grill’d a place of work that people can enjoy, including improvements to the quality of Grill’d training,” the email read.

At the time of publication, the Grill’d wage theft story was yet to go live, however, that hasn’t stopped Crowe’s email from making the rounds on social media.

Grill’d declined to comment on the email when approached by Inside Franchise Business.