CEO denies embattled Hog’s Breath closing

By Nick Hall | 05 Jul 2019 View comments

Iconic Australian franchise Hog’s Australia has denied recent closure reports, reassuring customers it is ‘business as usual’. Rumours of Hog’s Breath closing have been circulating for weeks, but concerns were raised on Tuesday when a former franchisee suggested the brand would be “gone within two years”. 

Speaking with News.com.au, Desmond Francois, a former Hog’s Breath franchisee in Morley, Western Australia accused the franchise of not supporting its network.

According to reports, Francois’ outlet closed in March, with the franchisee forced to declare bankruptcy.

“It’s a shocking state of affairs when you invest over a million dollars only to effectively become a voiceless business owner with no control over your own marketing material and no say in any part of the business,” Francois told News.com.au’s Alexis Carey.

The former franchisee’s comments come after it was revealed more than 10 Hog’s Australia Steakhouse restaurants have closed this year alone.

Hog’s Breath closing response

Speaking on Thursday, CEO Ross Worth slammed reports of Hog’s Breath closing, announcing the brand had no plans to cease operations.

Worth revealed Hog’s had implemented a series of initiatives to tackle the evolving food and beverage sector.

“Today officially marks our 30th birthday after opening the Airlie Beach restaurant on this day in 1989, and we continue to evolve in line with a rapidly changing market with initiatives such as home delivery, order-at-table tablets, the automation and diversification of our loyalty program, and continued menu development.”

The CEO also responded to Francois’ damning review of the company’s decision to remove a complimentary second side dish. When introduced, the controversial move divided the network, however as of this month, the promotion is back.

“We listened to the feedback and the new menu, rolling out across all restaurants towards the end of July, will again feature two sides alongside your favourite steak,” Worth said.

“Food wastage is a growing global concern and was a big factor in our decision to remove one of the sides, but customer service is our key driver, so we’ve bought it back.”

Media reports

It’s been a difficult few months for Hog’s. In May, reports of franchisee dissatisfaction emerged following a string of restaurant closures.

At the time Worth attributed the downturn to an economic and market shift.

“To say that restaurant closures can’t be blamed on a downturn in the economy is contrary to every report that I’ve read over the past 18 months.  It’s unquestionably the toughest environment we’ve seen in our 30-year history,” Worth told Inside Franchise Business at the time.

Speaking this week, Worth revealed that while the reports of Hog’s Breath closing had dropped morale within the brand, the team had been buoyed by a wealth of positive comments.

“We’ve been heartened by the positive comments from our loyal customers across Australia, and it’s a testament to our franchisees and head office support team who work incredibly hard every day,” he said.

“I pride myself on the unique culture we’ve developed at Hog’s and our strong relationships with customers, franchisees, support office staff and suppliers. Over the past 30 years of operation, we’ve built a fun and relaxed atmosphere and we’ll continue to evolve for many years to come.”

Hog’s Breath was launched in Airlie Beach in 1989. There are currently 65 Hog’s Australia Steakhouses across Australia.