Disgusted Pizza Hut staff quit over food safety fears
THREE Dunedin Pizza Hut workers have resigned in protest after "disgusting" actions by a franchise owner who allegedly served expired food that had been thrown in a skip, extended expiry dates of chicken and seafood and refused to fix a broken mixer that leaked engine oil into dough.
New Zealand fast-food company Restaurant Brands said it was aware of the issues and was working through them as a "matter of urgency". The Ministry for Primary Industries is also investigating.
The franchise owner has denied the claims.
Hayley Bevin, 26, quit her job of seven years at Pizza Hut in Dunedin about three weeks ago after what she describes as a series of "disgusting" actions by the franchise owner.
Dunedin has two Pizza Hut stores - one in Hillside Rd, South Dunedin, and another in Great King St, North Dunedin.
Naveen Malhotra took over the chain's two franchises about three months ago, and the hygiene and staff treatment "kept getting worse" after that, Bevin said.
He extended best-before dates on food, including chicken and seafood, she said.
The workers were told to use "disgusting, crusty" expired dough.
He also refused to fix a mixer that was leaking oil into dough, she said.
The last straw came when expired brownies she had thrown in the skip were put back in rotation, Ms Bevin said.
"I came back on Monday and they were in the chiller. I knew it was the same packet because I took a photo of it before I left," she said.
Ms Bevin said she wanted to warn the public about the practices at the stores.
"I don't want my friends to buy from there and get sick," she said.
When Ms Bevin resigned, she and two other employees had a meeting with the area manager about the issues and were told they would be investigated.
About two weeks later, she had not heard anything.
"It's like they're trying to protect the brand," Ms Bevin said.
Nikita Lloyd, 20, who worked at Pizza Hut for four years, left her job at the South Dunedin franchise last week.
"It's just disturbing. I hope my family doesn't go there to get food poisoning," she said.
She recalled one instance when she wanted to dispose of chicken wings that expired that night.
The duty manager called the franchise owner who instructed them to put the bag back in the fridge and change the expiry date.
They were used the next day, she said.
In another instance, frozen shrimp were thawing in hot water in a container and had partially cooked before being put back in the chiller.
Her friend at the North Dunedin store recounted a similar story in which they could smell the expired shrimp, but it was still put on a pizza, she said.
"I just hope something is done," she said.
Former employee Cory Cairns, 21, said he had seen incidents such as the two described.
He also recalled an instance when Ms Lloyd received a warning because she argued against using red capsicum, which had fallen on the floor, on a pizza.
Restaurant Brands general manager of marketing Geraldine Oldham said the company was aware of the issues raised.
"Our quality assurance team are working through them as a matter of urgency with the franchise owners of these stores," she said.
The company did not respond to questions about when it was notified about the issues or what action it would take.
Mr Malhotra, who said he was overseas, denied the claims.
The staff left because of "roster problems", he said.
He did not want to comment further and referred questions to head office.
A Dunedin City Council spokeswoman said it received a complaint about the restaurants on Saturday.
It was referred to the Ministry for Primary Industries, as Pizza Hut chose to be registered through the ministry rather than the council.
A ministry spokeswoman said it was investigating the allegations.
This article originally appeared on NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission