Days after an explosive report alleged rampant wage theft and exploitative behaviour at burger chain Grill’d, the company has finally spoken out.
Despite ongoing reports that indicate the chain profited from a so-called ‘hamburger university’ scheme that saw employees placed on trainee wages, Grill’d has backed the program.
“We are proud of our traineeship program and that our team members continually win nationally recognised customer service accolades as a result of their training,” a Grill’d spokesperson told Inside Retail.
“Our traineeship program has provided qualifications and a pathway for thousands of Australians across hospitality and other industries. Over 750 employees have completed their qualifications in the last 12 months and only 31 per cent of Grill’d employees are currently trainees.”
The statement comes amid growing discontent from the Grill’d network, with some former and current workers alleging that the chain’s 2015 enterprise agreement was failing them. The Sydney Morning Herald reported workers have protested outside one of the chain’s Melbourne outlets in response.
When The Age and Sydney Morning Herald investigation surfaced late last week, alarm bells rang for the burger business. Franchisee Elton Berrange accused the chain of not having his best interests at heart when it agreed to a 60 per cent rental increase with the landlord.
With franchises only making up 32 of the chain’s 137 restaurants, concerns had been raised that partners were being left behind.
However, on Wednesday, the Grill’d spokesperson denied those claims.
“At Grill’d we invest heavily into ensuring our franchise partners are supported, and have access to the systems, supply chain, innovation processes and branding they need to succeed in their businesses,” the spokesperson said.
“Our franchise partners are a loyal, valued and highly successful part of the Grill’d family, building successful and profitable businesses with some franchisees running multiple restaurants. Many have been with us on the Grill’d journey for over a decade and we hope they will be with us for many more years to come. There are no plans to remove franchises from our business.”
One thing the chain will be looking to eradicate over the coming months, however, is poor food safety practices.
Reports of health code violations, safety record falsification and even a dead mouse have plagued the chain’s horror week in the spotlight. However, through it all, the Grill’d spokesperson remained adamant that the chain upheld the highest of standards.
“Grill’d has made significant investments in our systems, processes and people to ensure that our food safety is best practice in the industry,” the spokesperson said.
“This includes compulsory food handling and safety training and a monthly third- party audit that exceeds the food safety standards required by local councils and state regulatory bodies. When any issues arise, corrective action is immediately put in place.”
The spokesperson’s statements are of little comfort to the chain’s seemingly growing network of frustrated workers and franchisees, but the true test is yet to come.
The in-question enterprise agreement is set to expire on December 22, with Grill’d facing an uphill battle to get riled up workers on-side.
This story first appeared on sister site, Inside Franchise Business.