Dinner by Heston Melbourne will close on February 14th

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Dinner by Heston at Crown Melbourne will close its doors forever on Friday 14th February amid an investigation into the restaurant group's payment practices.

Crown Casinos confirmed the news to Broadsheet, having terminated its lease with the restaurant on February 2nd as the scale of mass staff underpayments at the restaurant emerged. 

Dinner by Heston Melbourne was found to be indebted to its employees to the effect of more than AU$4.5 million - or £2.3 million after consistently underpaying them since it launched in 2015. 

The Sydney Herald showed creditors' reports unveiling the scale of the underpayments first revealed in late 2018, when the publication also blew the lid on the restaurant group's extensive tax avoidance. 

It has now been revealed by liquidators - called in by the restaurant in December when it declared itself insolvent - that Dinner by Heston was effectively in a joint venture with Crown, the Melbourne casino and resort, who set up a 'blueprint' for how employees were paid - which, applied consistently since the restaurant launched in 2015, resulted in the massive underpayment of employees. 

According to the creditors' report, underpayments are likely still understated as the calculation process is still ongoing. So far, it has been confirmed that the group owes AU$4m (£2.07m) and AU$435,000 (£226,000) in entitlements due to the closure of the business.

In 2018, the news broke that Tipsy Cake, the company behind Heston Blumenthal's restaurants, The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston in both the UK and Melbourne was set up through Caribbean tax haven on the island of Nevis (mentioned in the Paradise and Panama papers) and operated under a parent company based in another tax haven - on the Isle of Man.

Though not illegal, the company not being traceable to any particular person - as Heston Blumenthal gave up his shareholding in the business over a decade ago - reduces accountability when incidents such as massive underpayments occur.  

Leaked employee rosters showed that many chefs in the company were working 25 hours of overtime weekly but were receiving no payment, triggering an investigation by The Fair Work Ombudsman into the restaurant group's dealings. It took the group more than 7 months to comply with workplace law and pay its employees correctly.

Heston Blumenthal's personal reputation has taken a hit as a result of the scandal. 

Perhaps incidentally, yesterday Australian TV Channel Network10 confirmed that he would not be returning for his usual position on the judging panel on MasterChef, telling The Herald Sun that “Heston has been a long-time member of the MasterChef Australia family, but he will not be appearing in the upcoming season.”

Photo credit: Graham Jepsom

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 12th February 2020

Dinner by Heston Melbourne will close on February 14th