Italian restaurant chain Criniti’s has been sold for just $1million – including GST – to a South Australian restaurant group as creditors still wait to receive $19million.
The Brunelli group has bought six remaining locations which include venues at Darling Harbour and Parramatta in Sydney and Southbank in Melbourne.
Reports from the company’s liquidators, Worrells, revealed a $6.1million deal had been virtually done but was suddenly off the table after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The Italian restaurants across Australia went into voluntary administration in November with debts of $16.5million. Pictured: Bachelor star Noni Janur at the one of the Criniti’s restaurants
Reports from liquidators Worrells revealed a $6.1million deal was virtually done but was suddenly off the table after the coronavirus hit. Pictured: Criniti’s at Parramatta
In what has been described as ‘beyond a fire sale,’ Brunelli owner Raj Patel’s bid of $1million including GST was the best offer.
The money was shared between 14 Criniti’s businesses including six stores and holding companies Crinz Media and Criniti Holdings.
Some of the companies went for as little as $25,000 in what hospitality broker and owner of Prosperality David Hobbs called ‘beyond a fire sale’, reports the Herald Sun.
‘If a restaurant was 400 seats the revenue could easily be four to five million a year with an operating profit of $400,000 – $500,000,’ Mr Hobbs said.
The collapsed restaurant chain owes more than $6.5million to its former employees and had $4.5million missing from its books, Worrells claimed.
Six Criniti’s eateries were closed when the business went into administration on November 19, with debts of more than $16.5million.
The chain, which began in 2003, was famous for its wood-fired pizzas and attracted a number of high-flying customers
The chain’s other seven restaurants shut on April 3, due to the coronavirus pandemic, having earlier switched to takeaway to comply with government restrictions.
Staff did not receive their pay for long periods and investigators also uncovered unpaid superannuation, long service leave and annual leave the Daily Telegraph reported.
Raj Patel’s bid of $1million plus GST was the best offer on the table. Mr Patel is pictured
Worrells previously found the company had been trading while insolvent since December 1, 2018.
The $6.651million owed to employees will likely be paid out from the taxpayer-funded Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme, but they will only receive it if they are eligible.
Investigators calculated $4.5million was missing after discovering there was a disparity between money taken through store tills and what was banked.
The missing cash disappeared between December 1, 2018 and November 18, 2019.
There were varying amounts missing from different stores.
At Woolloomooloo $21,000 was missing, whereas at Darling Harbour there was a whopping $935,000 shortfall.
Investigators listed the missing funds as ‘Unfair Director Related Benefits’.
‘We are investigating whether the Director and/or his family have received cash from the Company and other Companies in the group,’ investigators said.
The heavily-tattooed Frank Criniti has kept a low public profile despite the onetime success of the Criniti’s restaurant chain. TV presenter Erin Molan is pictured with Italian soccer star Fabio Cannavaro (middle) and Frank’s brother Dominic Criniti
Italian motorcycles and sports cars adorned Criniti’s restaurants. The chain once provided a Rolls-Royce Phantom to ferry diners to and from its Woolloomooloo Wharf eatery
The chain, founded in 2003, was managed by Frank Criniti and his wife Rima until they divorced in 2009 and he was left in charge.
Frank was disqualified from managing companies for five years in 2018 due to his involvement in seven other failed businesses.
The chain’s sudden collapse came as a shock to industry rivals, but people who had dined there said it ‘didn’t surprise them at all’.
Frank Criniti was disqualified from managing companies for five years in 2018 due to his involvement in seven other failed businesses. Pictured: Bachelor star Noni Janur at the restaurant
Rima Criniti handed sole ownership of the pizza-pasta franchise to her now ex-husband Frank and his relatives in 2009.
Rima said the Criniti clan made several errors which included accumulated debts and rapid expansion.
‘While I left the business almost a decade ago, I have continued to dine at Criniti’s with my children, and have always loved the food and the experience,’ Rima wrote in a statement.
‘However, it takes more than fantastic food and hospitality to make a restaurant group a success.
‘It also requires smart management. There are very high costs involved in the hospitality industry, and if this is met with poor business decisions, then the business, its staff, and customers, will all suffer – as we now see with Criniti’s.’
HOW CRINITI’S RESTAURANTS ROSE, FELL AND ROSE AGAIN
Criniti’s was founded at Parramatta in Sydney’s western suburbs in 2003 by Frank Criniti and his wife Rima. They were both just 23
The menu was designed to combine traditional Southern Italian food and contemporary Australian cuisine.
The Crinitis opened their second eatery at Darling Harbour in 2009, the year Rima left the business. The business became their flagship outlet.
Criniti’s became famous for their flashy fit-outs featuring Italian motorcycles and sports cars.
More NSW outlets followed at Woolloomooloo Wharf, Kirrawee and Manly in Sydney, Wollongong, and Kotara in Newcastle.
Criniti’s spread interstate to Chermside in Brisbane, Cannington in Perth, and Southbank and Carlton in Melbourne.
Some customers have complained the quality of food and service went down while prices continued to go up as the business expanded.
On 19 November, 2019 the chain went into voluntary administration and five of its 13 restaurants were closed. A sixth was closed in January.
Coronavirus seemed to have killed off the last six restaurants until South Australia’s Brunelli Group stepped in and bought them.
Brunelli owner Ray Patel will re-open outlets at Castle Hill, Parramatta, Wetherill Park, Darling Harbour, Kotara in Newcastle, as well as Carlton and Southbank in Victoria.