The “ethical” burger chain run by star chef, Shannon Bennett, is to shut down, with the owners Vue Group citing “a commercial decision” and Bennett himself reportedly owing upwards of $150,000 to suppliers and the tax office.
Vue Group, the owners of Benny Burger and several other restaurants associated with Bennett like Vue de Monde, announced it was closing the popular burger spots. According to the Herald Sun, the Benny Burger fast food joint in Little Collins St in the Victorian capital’s CBD was shut down last month.
This is the latest blow to the hospitality empire owned by Bennett after the closure of other venues and the departures of senior executives, including Vue Group’s former chief executive Andrew Skinner and former chief operating officer Tom Little. Moreover, the Fair Work Ombudsman is also investigating into underpayment accusations at Vue de Monde.
“Vue Group has made the commercial decision to exit the Benny Burger brand due to a shift in priorities, Vue Group said in a statement.
“All staff entitlements have been paid in full. Any amounts owing to suppliers will be settled in full as per the standard payment terms.”
It is also being reported that the Melbourne fast-food chain still owes around $170,000 of debts to the tax office and suppliers. A report filed by a liquidator with the corporate regulator shows Benny Burger owes over $27,000 to former staff, approximately $133,000 to nearly 20 suppliers, and about $36,000 to the Australian Tax Office.
This comes in light when several other companies have also been caught in the underpayment controversy.
One of the other celebrity chefs, George Calombaris, was also found to commit wage theft. A company in which he is one of the directors, MAdE Establishment, underpaid over 500 current and former employees $7.8 million.
Neil Perry’s restaurant empire, along with several other establishments associated with celebrity chefs, have also found themselves the subject of rumours of underpayment. Perry’s Rockpool Group is currently being investigated by the FWO, and has already paid back staff $1.6m for a single year of underpayments.
Franchises like 7-Eleven, Pizza Hut, Caltex, and Domino’s have also been earlier caught for underpaying their employees.
Isabella Zamorano, a Senior Employment Relations Adviser at Employsure says, “The legislation around wages is overly complex and the ability for business to keep abreast of changes is the real issue.
“You shouldn’t need a law degree or an expensive team of hired guns to understand what you need to do to ensure that you are compliant.
“However, the reality is, not all businesses have access to these resources, which in many cases leads to the examples of wage theft we see each day.”