Finance

“I’m hurting and I’m working through it”: MissChu founder says the restaurant chain will trade through voluntary administration

Kirsten Robb /

MissChu founder Nahji Chu

Nahji Chu, founder of popular Vietnamese restaurant chain MissChu, has told customers the company will trade through the voluntary administration of its Sydney operations, despite letting a number of staff go.

The Sydney operations of MissChu collapsed into voluntary administration just days before Christmas, with administrators Rahul Goyal and Jannamaria Robertson of KordaMentha appointed on December 23, 2014.

Goyal confirmed to SmartCompany this morning the business had traded through the Christmas and New Year period, even though it had terminated roughly one third of its Sydney staff.

“All stores still open as usual and all suppliers will be supporting the business going forward,” says Goyal. “It is business as usual.”

Goyal says roughly 60 employees had been terminated, while another third of full-time staff had had their status changed to casual. A final third had remained in full-time positions with the company. KordaMentha is currently fielding calls and emails from any concerned employees.

Administrators have taken full control of the day-to-day operations of MissChu and, according to a statement, are “working with the management of MissChu to explore various options whilst continuing to operate the retail and catering businesses”.

In the statement, Goyal said it was too early to fully determine the outcome of the voluntary administration, but the immediate priority was to implement controls in the business, reduce the fixed costs and notify all stakeholders of the appointment of the voluntary administrators.

The first meeting of creditors will be held this Wednesday, January 7.

Goyal told SmartCompany while more would become clear after this meeting, he could confirm MissChu’s major creditors were a range of stakeholders including employees, the Australian Tax Office, the Office of State Revenue, suppliers and the owners of the business, including Chu herself. He also said landlords may be affected, with close to a month’s rent owed.

A spokesperson for KordaMentha also confirmed one of the strongest options for MissChu was to sell the business a going concern.

In a statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page on December 23, Chu apologised to supporters, saying she was “sorry that the media got to you before I did”.

“Yes it’s true that I placed the Sydney operations into voluntarily administration but this does not mean that we have closed down, gone bust or anything of the like. It is business as usual. Melbourne and London are not affected,” said Chu.

She said administrators were in the process of creating a restructuring package aimed at delivering the best financial outcomes for the stakeholders and “to save the business, save the stores and to save as many jobs as possible”.

Chu blamed the collapse on a senior management team that “didn’t work out”.

“The main reasons for why we are here is because the business grew quickly … which is a great problem to have. I needed the management skill set both financially and administratively to help me run the business and so I hired a senior management team a year and half ago over that didn’t work out,” said Chu in the post.

“It was too late by the time I saw how much damage was done and as a result, the most responsible thing I can do as a company director is to put the company into the hands of an administrator.”

Chu, a refugee to Australia, started MissChu as a Vietnamese street food-style catering business in 2007, quickly expanding her cuisine into retail tuckshops in Sydney, Melbourne and London.

She previously told SmartCompany she found it difficult to work with partners.

“It’s unfortunate that in order to grow I have to involve partners but with that comes its own set of problems, as it’s my name and branding, but on the upside it allows Miss Chu to grow,” she said.

In her Facebook post, Chu said she was “back in the driver’s seat”.

“I’m hurting and I’m working through it… the truth is that I have put every dollar I’ve earnt into this business,” she said.

“I thank you for your continued support and I hope you all have a wonderful festive season and holiday. I look forward to serving you at the window next year.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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