George Calombaris' failed restuarants set for new look within a week
Venues in George Calombaris’ troubled restaurant empire could be ready for new operators within the week, administrators say.
The “devastated” celebrity chef placed 22 companies in the Made Establishment Group into voluntary administration on Monday, with advisory and investment firm KordaMentha appointed.
Twelve of Calombaris’ Melbourne restaurants and venues stopped trading immediately with the appointment, with about 400 workers losing their jobs.
The decision came after it emerged last year Made Establishment staff were back-paid $7.8 million in wages and superannuation in 2017.
Patronage of the group’s venues has been declining since.
Administrators Craig Shepard and Leanne Chesser hope to find people willing to buy the businesses quickly, improving the chances that some staff are retained by the new operators.
“We could have them ready to go by Monday,” Mr Shepard told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Chef Matt Wilkinson has already expressed interest in buying the Crofter Dining Room where he presides.
The administrators will spend about a month preparing a report on Made Establishment, but creditors will meet for the first time next Thursday.
Employees have been paid outstanding wages and superannuation up to Sunday, the administrators have been told.
KordaMentha will verify that is the case, with Mr Shepard stressing any annual leave, long serve leave and severance entitlements will also need to be checked.
If the business cannot pay those entitlements through recovered funds, workers may be forced to apply for what they are owed through a Fair Work guarantee scheme.
“The message we’re saying to employees is they don’t need to navigate that, we’ll do all that for them,” Mr Shepard said.
Australia’s hospitality union - the United Workers Union - and the Victorian Trades Hall Council are determined to help workers get what they are owed.
Head of the Victorian Trades Hall Council legal centre Oanh Tran said they are particularly concerned about any workers who were on temporary migrant visas.
“Now not only have they lost their jobs, they have potentially lost the ability to remain in Australia,” she said,
“There are going to be at least some and probably many who are in that really vulnerable position.”
Neither KordaMentha or the unions know yet how many workers are on those visas, but the union says at least one has approached them anonymously.
The only part of Made Establishment excluded from administration is a chain of four Yo-Chi outlets.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show Calombaris was a director at Made until May, 2018.
The five current shareholders include Made Establishment Pty Ltd and George C Pty Ltd.