Here’s a story for you

The backgrounder

So just over three months ago Chef received a phone call from a guy called Murray Howe, the owner of Murray’s Craft Brewing Company. Remember?

Murray Howe called him, asked to meet him and basically wanted Chef to run the whole food end of his foray into the Sydney market with the opening of his restaurant/bar in Manly called Murray’s. He told Chef that Manly would just be the start, that then there would be one on the other side of the bridge and then another somewhere else and that Chef would be executive chef over all of those. The package was good and the promise of bonuses when food costs were kept below a certain level a great sweetener.

This is what the company’s website said at the time.

There was an article in Good Living┬áby Willie Simpson(I can’t find it on the SMH site but here is a link to it being replicated on Microbrewing.com.au), The Sydney Morning Herald’s weekly food and beverage lift-out.

And so off we went.

Chef was loving it – he was working closely with the two other members of the start-up team – B and M. They had been head-hunted from Melbourne and they too were as committed and excited about being involved from the get-go in establishing the Murray’s brand in Sydney and then some.

For B it was an even bigger decision as his wife was pregnant with their first child. The offer and opportunity were such that while he trekked north his wife moved back to her parents place for the last few months of her pregnancy. Last week her waters broke at 35 weeks and while B headed straight to the airport onto the first available flight, he missed the birth of his first child. Mum and bub (a boy!) are doing well although bub is still in the NICU due to his early arrival.

There were some head-scratching moments of frustration when the proposed refurbishment of the space didn’t happen as quickly as they would have liked but it was all good.

This week

Sunday marked the last day before the restaurant closed for the always-planned refit. Monday Chef and M (B was back in Melbourne with his wife and new baby) were on site at 7am to meet with the project manager. Also there was MV, a restaurant consultant hired by Murray Howe a few weeks (we think) back.

Chef was working on finalising his breakfast menu for the re-opening for much of the day. That afternoon MV asked to meet with him. They did and M proceeded to sack Chef. The reason given was that they had decided to change the direction of the food aspect of the venture. By the following morning Chef’s severance pay was already in our bank account.

Needless to say Chef was dumbstruck. All he had received in the three months prior was positive, if not glowing, feedback on his menus and food. He was – and is – absolutely gutted. M and B had no idea.

Chef rang Murray Howe, several times that afternoon and evening. The phone just rang out. On Tuesday he rang him and it went to voicemail – a message left, yet to be returned.

On Tuesday, MV asked to meet with B. While B was having a meeting with the site manager MV came up to him and handed over an envelope addressed to B which had been opened. B commented that it was addressed to him but already opened. The letter terminated his employment. MV assured him it had nothing to do with his performance or attitude whatsoever.

 

Shall I go on?

 

Yesterday (Wednesday 21 Sept 2011) MV sat down with M. He assured him his position was safe and that now MV was in charge but he wanted M to be his 2IC. M questioned as to why they would want to keep him on after what they had done to his two colleagues. MV reassured him further that the plan was to open a whole stream of Murray’s up and down the Eastern Seaboard and they wanted M to be a part of that and that then they were going to make a ‘float’. MV asked M if he knew what that meant, M asked for an explanation. “It means we’re going to build up the business and then sell it”.

As to why this plan could not stay in place with Chef and B still at the helm is an unanswered question.

And there is also nothing wrong with this statement, I mean, it’s a pretty standard business model isn’t it? Build something up to a point and then make a mozza from it?

It does, however, reveal a game plan completely different to what Murray Howe had pitched to Chef, B and M to get them on board. Murray Howe is a loud voice in the promotion of craft breweries – a David to the Goliath beer manufacturers. That the big players are “gorillas” using bully-boy tactics to keep the small players out of the pubs and bars and clubs.

But this is a moot point now. Chef – our sole breadwinner is without a job. B – a new father in a new city is without a job. They will get new jobs but at the same pay? with similar opportunities as were promised at the outset of this one? ┬áThis is not really the point though is it.

 

Side-story

Murray Howe is also a property developer. According to M the team doing the demolition of the restaurant are contacts of Murray’s – but that there is no DA approval from Manly Council. Furthermore, M witnessed earlier in the week an electrician on site receive an electric shock so powerful he fell.off.the.ladder he was standing on. Work Safe Australia are to be contacted.

There is media interest in the story.

The boys are talking to Fair Work Australia regarding unfair dismissal. We’ve had preliminary legal advice that both are entitled to far more of a payout than their severance pay.

The support we’ve had on Twitter has been astronomical. In fact, when I first tweeted about it my handle – @allconsuming – was trending in Sydney AND Australia.

Job opportunities have come from it. Discussions are being had and meetings forthcoming.

 

But did this need to happen at all? Did it have to happen like this? Was it just that Murray didn’t want to pay wages during the next 6 weeks of the restaurant being closed? Was it always his plan to just hire these guys for the first three months as seat warmers? Who knows.

 

So, as we know, ONWARD!