Popular Aussie burger chain collapses
Celebrity chef Shannon Bennett's burger chain Benny Burger has collapsed with debts of $170,000 still outstanding, it has been reported.
The Melbourne fast-food chain, which includes a branch on Little Collins St in the Victorian capital's CBD, has now been placed into administration.
In a statement sent to news.com.au, a spokeswoman from Vue Group - Benny Burger's parent company - confirmed the news.
"Vue Group has made the commercial decision to exit the Benny Burger brand due to a shift in priorities," the statement reads.
"Vue Group remains focused on providing aspirational guest experiences through its diverse portfolio of venues and is confident the aforementioned change will deliver a stronger platform for growth in the future.
"All staff entitlements have been paid in full. Any amounts owing to suppliers will be settled in full as per the standard payment terms."
It's just the latest blow in an already troubled period for Mr Bennett, who is yet to personally respond to the closure.
According to the Herald Sun - which reported that "for lease" signs had suddenly appeared on Benny Burger's Swan St outlet in Richmond back in May - paperwork submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission reveals Mr Bennett "owes $132,668 to suppliers and $35,897 to the Australian Taxation Office".
Last month, Mr Bennett's live music venue Geddes Lane Ballroom was plagued by rumours of an imminent closure, although those rumours were strenuously denied by the company.
There is also an ongoing Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into allegations of underpayment of staff at Vue de monde, and last August, the 43-year-old and his actor wife Madeleine West announced their separation, although the parents of six have since rekindled their romance.
Benny Burger is just the latest in a string of big-name closures to rock Australia this year, starting in January when menswear retailer Ed Harry went into voluntary administration.
A week later, Aussie sportswear favourite Skins also revealed it was on the brink of failure after applying for bankruptcy in a Swiss court.
At the end of the month, the Napoleon Perdis beauty empire also announced the cult make-up chain's 56 Aussie stores had closed for stocktake. Administrators were appointed, and scores of stores have since collapsed.
Footwear trailblazer Shoes of Prey also met its demise this year, along with British fashion giant Karen Millen, which in September revealed it would soon shut all Aussie stores, leaving around 80 jobs in peril.
In 2018, even more household names shut up shop, including plus-size womenswear brand Maggie, Gap, Avon, Esprit, Toys 'R' Us, Max Brenner, Roger David and Laura Ashley.
Earlier this year, several experts including Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens predicted retailers would struggle to keep the lights on in 2019.
In March, a Deloitte Access Economics report said consumers had been propping up the industry thanks to the tail end of the property market's boom and the rise of buy now, pay later platforms such as Afterpay.
But weakening house prices and doubts lingering over the local share market are tipped to weigh on consumers with retail turnover growth predicted to fall to 1.6 per cent in 2019, compared to 2.2 per cent last year.
"Australia's retail sector has been sustaining a reasonable rate of sales growth in an unconventional way - not so much from income growth, but leveraging off consumers' willingness to spend," Mr Rumbens said.
"It's fair to say that many retailers have only survived the last few years because we've lived beyond our means.
"But that ship has now sailed."
Benny Burger - named after Mr Bennett's father - was founded by the chef and author in June 2017 as an ethical burger joint and a budget alternative to his well-known, up-market eatery, Vue de Monde.
Shannon Bennett is best known for his involvement with Vue de monde as well as several appearances as a guest judge on MasterChef Australia.
He also owns and operates several other hospitality venues in Melbourne, including Vue Events at Rialto, The Lui Bar, Bistro Vue, and Café Vue in two locations - and has written six books.