A group of restaurants run by one of Australia’s most highly regarded chefs, Justin North, has fallen victim to rapid expansion and has gone into administration.
North and his wife, Georgia, were well known for the award-winning Becasse restaurant, which first opened in 2001. The restaurant is housed in a 19th century sandstone building that was formerly a bank and is decorated with velvet, leather and crystal chandeliers.
Becasse was the big signing for the $840 million Westfield refurbishment and relaunch in October, 2010.
Since opening Becasse, the Norths have expanded their business to include casual restaurants Quarter Twenty One and Etch, takeaway food outlets Becasse Bakery and Charlie & Co burgers, as well as Quarter Twenty One Providore, The Cookery School and Le Grand Cafe at Alliance Francaise.
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The group now employs 150 staff. However, its growth has come at a price and Ferrier Hodgson partners Jim Sarantinos and John Melluish were appointed as administrators to the North Group yesterday.
Sarantinos said in a statement released yesterday that the North Group’s “rapid growth” led to a “number of underlying business issues” which must be addressed to assure the long-term viability of the North Group.
He said the businesses will trade as usual while an urgent assessment of the North Group’s financial position is undertaken.
Sarantinos said his first step will be to liaise with key stakeholders, including employees, landlords and suppliers, to provide them with information about the future of the business.
“I will be looking at restructure options, including the potential for the introduction of new investment,” Sarantinos said.
“This is a well-known and well-regarded business that could flourish if appropriately restructured.”
North was born in New Zealand and trained in New Zealand, Australia, France and the UK before returning to Australia in 1999.
He worked under chef Liam Tomlin at Sydney’s Banc Restaurant and moved through the ranks of the kitchen to the role of head chef before venturing out with his wife, who was the sommelier at Banc, to open Becasse.
North has also released two cookbooks and is well known from his appearances on MasterChef.
North posted yesterday on Twitter from his account @JustinBecasse: “Thank you everyone for your support, to confirm Georgia & I have put Becasse Group into voluntary administration with a view to restructure.
“In the meantime it is business as usual. We will post more updates soon.
“The support and messages have been overwhelming, sorry we haven’t been able to respond to all, come by and eat with us soon.”
The collapse of Becasse is the latest in a string of high-profile restaurant administrations. High-end restaurant Manly Pavilion closed recently with debts of $590,000, while, last year, creditors voted to liquidate Sydney’s three hat Bilson’s Restaurant, which had debts of $1 million.
Even Gordon Ramsay found the Australian restaurant market tough, with his Melbourne restaurant Maze entering liquidation last year owing $4.6 million to local suppliers.