Image Description: A red background with white text that reads “Grill’d, healthy burgers.”
By Matthew Clarke
Nothing quite fills the hole in your soul after a regretful night enjoying oneself much more than a hearty and greasy burger.
For socially conscious minded university students, Grill’d looks to be the perfect alternative to the plethora of other guilt inducing fast food chains. A quick glance at their website or social media accounts confirm the company to be in line with many young people’s views about sustainability and social responsibility. Plastered across the screen one will find countless reminders of their commitment to sustainable food practices, vegan and vegetarian options, as well as a particular commitment to giving back to their local community. No more shall we, the consumer, have to stuff ourselves with a cheap burger filled with saturated fat and made with a subpar standard! Grill’d promises the customer a healthy alternative that is conscious of the environment and contemporary social issues.
These commitments, wrapped in sleek corporate marketing, are hiding a well-documented history of exploitation of young workers, and a commitment to conveying a pseudo-corporate ‘wokeness’ purely for economical gain. Yes, dear reader, much in the same vein of the infamous case of Pepsi and Kylie Jenner, Grill’d has cashed in on the socially progressive market and is making millions at the expense of their workers.
With simple online search of ‘Grill’d’ it will not take one much digging before they will uncover the infamous traineeship program run by Grill’d. The program sees all staff complete a mandatory Certificate III in hospitality, technically making them an apprentice, without receiving the same intensive training or hours conducted in a traditional trade.
Before continuing, I must digress that I am a former (and rather disgruntled) employee of Grill’d, and although only working at the company for a short time, I was employed as a trainee staff member. Throughout my short time at Grill’d, my experience entailed personally receiving little training outside of a basic orientation around my workplace and some extremely stressful shifts where I was thrown completely into the deep end. In researching for this article, it seems my experience isn’t an unusual one, with websites such as Glassdoor, a platform for employees to rate their workplaces, littered with similar complaints about the program. Even the Sydney Morning Herald conducted an investigation that uncovered the depth of the workplace exploitation at Grill’d.
Rather than a way for Grill’d to provide a consistent experience, it is clear that the aim of this program is to dramatically cut the cost of labour, with a school leaver expected to be paid $14.65 for an hours work, meaning that an eighteen year old can barely afford to eat the fruits of their own labour, let alone support themselves on such a wage. Considering its staff often report working long, stressful hours in an extremely hot kitchen with huge potential for accidents, and considering the businesses huge success, the refusal to pay many of its staff a living wage highlights the company’s total commitment to profit over people.
Some of you may be thinking that if working at Grill’d has such a dramatic disadvantage, then why apply in the first place and why not simply leave? To this, I must point at the dire state of the economy for a young person leaving high school. With the youth unemployment rate significantly higher than the rest of the nation, and with the post COVID-19 economic woes expected to exacerbate this, a large number of people are left with no other option to keep a roof over their head. For many university aged individuals, the promise of a night-time job that can allow one to study during the day is an alluring one.
Grill’d focuses a lot on its social programs, such as the Local Matters program, which sees customers vote on which of the three-monthly programs will receive a grant of $300, with the other two receiving $100. The purpose of this program is cited as a way for Grill’d to give back to the communities that its shops are located in. Notably, this led to a scandal in which a Brisbane store chose to place an anti-abortion organisation as an option in which customers could vote for receiving funds. This meant such an organisation was picked over the countless others that applied, many of whom it could be assumed required the funds a lot more.
If Grill’d truly wants to support local communities and give back to local’s, it should start by affording those that work for them the right to a living wage. Until then, consider the slick marketing of Grill’d what it really is; a well formulated cover-up of exploitation.
Editor’s note: We at Pelican would like to make clear that Bayley was also an employee of Grill’d in the past. While he personally was one of the rare cases of not being put under the Certificate III program, he fully supports the writings in this article.