Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth

Mary’s Group founders Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth have issued a statement after comments they made on their podcast, The Fat, went viral over the weekend.

During a discussion about ‘Old Hospitality’ — an industry known for gruelling working conditions— the duo appeared to blast today’s young workers for their “self-entitled” attitudes.

The comments were reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday 22 November, with backlash quickly ensuing across social media platforms.

The article drew particular attention to Smyth’s opinions about ‘work-life balance’, quoting his suggestion that “It is one of the most dangerous terms young people have been introduced to.”

The discussion drew criticism from some, while others agreed with the sentiments expressed by Graham and Smyth.

The pair have since published a statement on the Mary’s website, saying the comments made during the podcast were not aimed at individual staff or their team as a whole.

“They were aimed at a collection of stories and comments that we hear on a weekly basis from our staff, managers, chefs & other restaurant owners about a small minority of people across multiple industries,” reads the statement.

“To be clear, our staff are the reason that Mary’s has come to be what it is. Its strength is them, its purpose is them, and we love them all deeply. 

“There are some staff who agree with our comments, there are others who have been deeply hurt by them. 

“To those who agree, thank you for the support and kindness over the past few hours.

“To those hurt, we apologise for what has been framed to be a public shaming. This is not what was intended.”

Speaking to Triple J’s Hack, Smyth said the discussion had been taken out of context.

“Our Podcast discussion did not call out our staff, or even the industry,” the statement continued. “Rather, it was to call out a disruptive minority attitude that seeks to lay the issues of Work/Life balance & mental health solely at the feet of Employers. This attitude is poisonous to all involved. It is reprehensible to suggest that people are not able to hold their own agency.

“It removes all agency from the suffering individual and sets up a situation wherein they will be continually subjected to the whims of others. This is clearly something that must be discussed.”

The statement also acknowledged the industry’s history of underpayments and mental health pressures: “Mental health pressures are exacerbated by the ready supply of alcohol and the normalisation of drug use. As humans who wrestle with these issues personally,  there is a fine line to walk between normalising these behaviours and encouraging people to explore their own agency and support that path.

“Genuine dialogue is in dangerously short supply and both sides of any argument should feel safe to share and talk about them publicly,” it continued. “The cancel culture and shaming that surrounds any difficult conversation is toxic and must be met head on. Our Podcast is an attempt to meet such challenges by supplying context and space for people to explore the ideas that inspire and challenge us all.”

Mary’s Group operates pubs the Lansdowne and the Unicorn, as well as several Mary’s outlets across Sydney and Melbourne.