A Melbourne restaurant linked to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal cheated workers out of $4.5 million, according to a leaked administrator’s report.
- Dinner by Heston is owned by Tipsy Cake and Crown Resort paid 1 million pounds a year to house the eatery
- Crown has rejected the suggestion it is in a joint venture with Tipsy Cake
- The restaurant owners self-reported the under-payments to the Fair Work Ombudsman
Dinner by Heston, which operates out of Melbourne’s Crown Resort, charged up to $295 per head for its “immersive experience” degustation meals.
The leaked creditors’ report, compiled by provisional liquidators BRI Ferrier, details debts of nearly $8 million, the majority of which is owed to workers.
“The major financial issue confronting the company is the underpayment of employee entitlements over a period of four years from commencement of business until circa June 2019, when the employment arrangements were changed to comply with employment legislation,” the report said.
Employees of Dinner by Heston were underpaid more than $4 million in wages and another $435,000 in entitlements.
“We have been informed that the blueprint for the retainer of the majority of staff was initially established by a Crown employee,” it read.
“The blueprint was applied over several years and resulted in the underpayment of employee wages.
“The company self-reported the under-payments to the Fair Work Ombudsman.”
The United Workers Union (UWU) has slammed the restaurant and Crown for ripping off workers and demanded the resort take on the responsibility for the wage-theft debt.
“We have requested that Crown repay all unpaid wages and entitlements owed to our members — and offer employment to these members as well as sponsoring those who are on temporary visas,” UWU national president Jo-anne Schofield said.
BRI Ferrier reported Dinner by Heston was “best described as a joint venture” between Crown and the restaurant’s parent company Tipsy Cake, registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.
Despite carrying the celebrity chef’s name, the restaurant is not owned by Blumenthal.
Crown was charged an annual licensing fee of 1 million pounds ($1.93 million) for the right to house the luxury eatery but the company has rejected the suggestion it is in a joint venture with Tipsy Cake.
A Crown spokeswoman said in a statement that Dinner by Heston was a tenant, it employed its own staff and was responsible for its own operations.
“Tipsy Cake has asked the court to appoint a liquidator, on the basis that it is insolvent. In these circumstances, including ongoing substantial unpaid expenses to Crown, Crown has taken steps to bring the tenancy to an end,” she said.
“While this is disappointing, Crown is working to provide assistance to Tipsy Cake employees looking for employment within Crown. The provisional liquidator of Tipsy Cake, however, will need to deal with employee matters at the first instance.”
On its website, Dinner by Heston calls itself “one of the world’s most exciting restaurants” taking “creative inspiration from our historic and nostalgic culinary past”.
Ms Schofield said: “Crown used the celebrity of Heston Blumenthal as a drawcard to lure big-spending customers, who stayed in Crown’s hotels and gambled at its casino”.
“Crown continued backing Dinner by Heston through the joint venture that saw them pay rent of only $1 a year and a million pounds a year sent overseas in an intellectual property deal.
“Meanwhile hospitality workers are owed up to $35,000, after working 80 to 90-hour weeks.
“There are workers who face losing sponsored visa status and being forced to leave the country, because of Crown’s move to now evict Dinner by Heston.”
This latest revelation follows action taken by the Fair Work Ombudsman last year after the suspected multi-million-dollar wage theft was revealed.
The ABC has contacted the restaurant for comment.