Dinner by Heston Melbourne in turmoil

07 January, 2020 by
Hospitality Magazine

Crown Casino Melbourne restaurant Dinner by Heston entered the festive season in a shroud of doubt, with Brian Silvia and David Coyne of BRI Ferrier appointed to its owner Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd on 20 December.

In a statement provided to the Sydney Morning Heraldthe company said that the business would remain operational and open.

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“The voluntary appointment of the provisional liquidators will enable appropriate actions to continue the restaurant’s current successful and profitable trading and to fulfil its obligations.”

The decision to enter administration raised questions about the fate of staff who are owed back pay entitlements following allegations of underpayments in December 2018. At the time it was claimed individual chefs at Dinner by Heston may have been underpaid up to $30,000 each per year.

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The FWO said it has already contacted the provisional liquidator and will take steps to assist employees to recover outstanding entitlements.

A Compliance Notice covering the 2017 and 2018 calendar years was issued on 14 November 2019, requiring Tipsy Cake to calculate and rectify underpayments by 13 December 2019. The notice has not been complied with.

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It has been indicated the amount owing could run into the millions.

The FWO would typically commence court proceedings to seek orders for compliance with the notice and the imposition of a penalty. However, this pathway is  impeded by the winding up of Tipsy Cake, meaning the regulator will explore all options to assist employees and hold those involved to account.

“Tipsy Cake was aware that a significant amount of wages and entitlements were owing to many workers who had been underpaid,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“The circumstances of this matter are disappointing. The Fair Work Ombudsman will liaise with the provisional liquidator and other relevant stakeholders in order to assist the employees to recover their entitlements.”

While Blumenthal lends his name to the restaurant, as well as its London counterpart, he has not been involved in running or owned a restaurant since 2006.

In another blow to the brand, leading chef Ashley Palmer-Watts announced on 31 December that he would be leaving his post at the company.

In a statement released via Twitter the lauded chef thanked “all the brilliant people past and present”.

On what’s next, the chef was tight-lipped: “After 20 incredible years, it is time for me to move on from Bray for a new chapter and to take on fresh challenges. I will initially be spending some time with my family as I prepare for the new and exciting journey ahead.”

Palmer-Watts was executive chef at Dinner by Heston’s Melbourne and London outposts, and head chef at Bray’s three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck.