Burger chain Grill’d faces grilling by Fair Work Ombudsman

Burger chain Grill'd has found itself in the Fair Work Ombudsman's sights.

Burger chain Grill'd has found itself in the Fair Work Ombudsman's sights. Photo: The New Daily

Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed it is investigating home-grown burger chain Grill’d for an unspecified reason.

A spokesperson said the ombudsman’s office is “conducting inquiries in relation to Grill’d” but remained tightlipped regarding the nature and cause of the probe.

“As these inquiries are ongoing, it is not appropriate for us to comment further,” the spokesperson said.

The New Daily contacted the national fast food empire, but the company refused to answer any questions about the ombudsman’s review.

While the ombudsman won’t confirm the reason for its ‘inquiries’, reports by News Corp suggest the investigation is related to the burger chain’s controversial traineeship program.

Young workers allegedly underpaid

According to Grill’d’s website, “all new team members undertake the same first 12-month training to ensure consistency” across the chain’s separate locations.

Trainees are paid less than the award rate until they receive one of three qualifications, depending on which state they’re employed in.

Several former Grill’d employees have since taken to social media to share their experiences working for the chain, describing the training as unnecessary and noting they were able to complete the workload in the space of a few hours.

Nevertheless, the traineeships were stretched out to last at least a year (and in some cases more), leaving young workers on lower wages for longer.

If true, it wouldn’t be the first time the chain has come under fire for alleged wage theft.

In 2017, employee advocacy group Young Workers Centre successfully petitioned Grill’d to ensure employees finished their traineeships within a reasonable timeframe following claims the company was deliberately delaying accreditation and refusing to run the necessary training sessions.

“They sign up young workers to complete hospitality certificates, but prevent them from completing their qualifications by refusing to schedule training sessions,” the petition’s creator, listed only as ‘Kashmir S’, said.

“This strategy is a scam. It rips us off, denying us fair pay and the training we’re promised.

“Grill’d have shown time and time again they will do whatever it takes to make a profit from exploiting workers. This strategy means no qualification, no bonus, no career progression.”

Two years prior, Grill’d reached an out-of-court settlement with a former Camberwell employee, Kahlani Pyrah, after she campaigned to have the chain’s WorkChoices-era pay deal – which paid below the then award – replaced.

Current Grill’d employees have been encouraged to contact the ombudsman directly with any concerns they may have.

Grill’d among Australia’s most popular

Despite the numerous wage scandals (and an academic report contesting the chain’s self-proclaimed ‘healthy’ credentials), Grill’d remains a favourite with customers.

The company consistently ranks within the top 10 quick service restaurants for customer satisfaction, according to research firm Roy Morgan.

The latest round of data, collected in September, places the chain in fifth place, behind only Crust Pizza, Noodle Box, Guzman y Gomez, and Oporto.

But a glance at previous months’ data shows Grill’d is slipping, having seen a 3.6 per cent fall in satisfaction in the past year alone.

That was enough for the chain to cede its crown as the fast food chain with the most satisfied customers, a title now held by Crust Pizza.

“As we often see in other Roy Morgan customer satisfaction award categories, it only takes a small decline in ratings for a business to drop its placing,” Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said.

“If we look at Crust Pizza’s current satisfaction rating compared to a year ago, we see very little improvement.

“This is in stark contrast to Noodle Box, Guzman y Gomez and Oporto, who have all surged upwards in the past 12 months.”

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