An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that Grill’d chain co-founder Simon Crowe forged his business partner’s signature on liquor licence applications.
According to journalist Adele Ferguson’s article the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor was made aware that the documents were forged in December 2016.
On two separate occasions between 2011 and 2012 Crowe signed the signature of Simon McNamara, who sold a 20% stake in Grill’d in 2012.
When McNamara realised that his signature had been forged on liquor licence applications he wrote to the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor in Western Australia in 2016.
Crowe wrote to the department to confirm he had signed McNamara’s name on two forms “and it appears that the forms I signed were then photocopied by our staff and used in relation to the two other venues”.
He said he wanted to “set the record straight and apologise for my conduct”.
The liquor licence applications related to Grill’d restaurants in Perth’s Subiaco, Joondalup, Hillarys and Claremont and were lodged in 2011 and 2012.
While forging signatures is a criminal offence, no charges have been laid in regard to the licence applications. The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor said forging signatures was “rare in the liquor industry”.
A statement issued by Grill’d said: “Simon Crowe signed a particulars form including the name, date of birth and address of his business partner on his behalf without first seeking his consent as his business partner was uncontactable at the time.”
Grill’d staff member served alcohol without RSA
Pedestrian TV has since revealed that a current employee at Grill’d has revealed she was serving alcohol without a mandatory Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate for over a year, in direct violation of Victorian state legislation.
The 20-year-old, who has worked at a Victorian franchise since 2018, said she worked for approximately 14 months without completing her RSA, which she says was due to Grill’d repeatedly delaying the training.
“I thought it was meant to be one of the first things completed,” she said.
“The first training thing would have been RSA which is probably the most important thing. But it took me to finish my whole entire traineeship. And then three months after that, even though I’d finished, for them to actually get me booked into a class.
“I was serving alcohol throughout the whole time.”
A Grill’d spokesperson told PEDESTRIAN.TV that “all team members who are required to serve alcohol must have a responsible serving of alcohol certificate”, but said that not all staff are required to serve alcohol, and that those without certificates are told they cannot do so.”
Worker exploitation exposed at Grill’d
The revelations follow a media investigation exposing alleged worker exploitation and food and safety issues in some of its restaurants as well as claims of poor treatment of some franchisees.
According to the SMH, store managers are pressured and incentivised to keep labour costs down. Managers can be paid bonuses of up to $12,000 if they hit wage targets.
As a result, many company-owned and franchised restaurants operate on very low labour cost to sales ratio. According to company documents seen by the SMH and The Age, only three restaurants out of a total of 136 paid an average wage of more than $20 – with one paying an average wage of only $14.16.
Grill’d has asserted that any suggestion its agreements with staff are anything but “lawful, valid or compliant” are false.
However, the SMH reports that Grill’d allegedly requires staff to do government-subsidised Certificate III traineeships in hospitality to get a job there to bring down net wages.
Under the agreement an 18-year-old Grill’d worker on a traineeship is paid an hourly flat rate of $14.50 per hour, workers union Hospo Voice states.That’s $4.23 per hour less on a Saturday and Sunday than a worker on the Fast Food Award who is not doing a traineeship, it notes.The Fair Work Commission approved the agreement in 2015, which is set to expire this month, the union states.
United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy says the deal should never have been approved, and workers are being exploited.
“What Grill’d workers are saying is that these traineeships are a cruel joke,” he said.
“They aren’t useful, they take years to complete — that’s if they get to complete them at all, and many don’t. It’s just a dodgy tactic to pay them rock bottom wages,” he said.
“Trainee wages and rolled-up rates shouldn’t be a back door to exploitation.”
More than 90% of 370 current and former Grill’d workers surveyed in 2018 by an Australian University Union student group said the traineeship wasn’t worthwhile.
Grill’d has received more than $7 million in taxpayer subsidies for the apprenticeship program; while owner Crowe (above) is worth an estimated $450 million.
Leaked internal food safety reports have also exposed food safety concerns at one in 10 of Grill’d’s 105 company-owned restaurants.