The founder of Australian burger chain Grill’d blasted out an “urgent” email to all staff on Thursday evening, ahead of what he anticipates is a “pending media story that will wrongly claim we have worked against the interests of our franchise partners, and our restaurant teams, including how we conduct our training.”

Screenshots of the email were posted to Twitter by UTS student journalist Alex Turner-Cohen.

In the email, which was addressed to the “Grill’d Family” and contained the subject line “urgent update”, founder and managing director Simon Crowe seeks to reassure employees that upcoming media coverage claiming Grill’d has been “working against the interests” of its franchise partners and staff is incorrect.

“Any suggestion that we have fallen short of our values is one that I take very seriously,” Crow said.

A video circulating on social media, which was reportedly sent out along with the email, shows Crowe directly addressing employees about the incoming media coverage, and reinforcing that Grill’d is a “person-led business” with a focus on always trying to “do the right thing by our people, by our franchise partners, and the many stakeholders in the Grill’d ecosystem.”

He says the upcoming media coverage on Grill’d will be “challenging who we are”, in terms of culture, staff treatment and franchise relationships.

This is not the first time that Grill’d has come under fire for training practices and treatment of its staff.

Between 2015 and 2017, the company’s alleged use of traineeships as a means to pay staff as little as $11 an hour was exposed by A Current Affair, as a former employee took the company to court for wage theft and hiring staff on outdated employment agreements.

Staff from franchises around the country brought the company’s higher-ups to negotiation, according to the Young Workers Centre, where it was agreed that these ‘traineeships’ would be capped at 18 months, and accountability measures were to be put into place to ensure its staff were being treated fairly.

Details of this new exposé have not yet been revealed, but staff who have worked for Grill’d over the last ten years have stepped forward on Twitter in response to the leaked email, sharing their experiences and claims about the lack of training and low wage rates throughout the company’s seemingly-mandatory traineeship system.

Grill’d declined to comment on Friday.

If you or anyone you know has had experiences with the Grill’d traineeship program and are keen to contribute your story, reach out to me on courtney@pedestriangroup.com.au.

Image: Facebook / Grill'd Burgers