What's next for Made Establishment's Melbourne restaurants?

Matt Wilkinson outside Crofter Dining in Melbourne.
Matt Wilkinson outside Crofter Dining in Melbourne. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis

The hospitality industry has been reeling at last week's announcement that the Made Establishment group was entering voluntary administration. The decision by the board meant the group's 12 restaurants, including Matt Wilkinson's newly opened Crofter Dining, Elektra and the Jimmy Grants outlets were closed immediately, putting 400 employees out of a job.

Perhaps the only silver lining is the support being shown by the industry. Ahead of the formal announcement last Monday, Iain Ling, publican at the Lincoln Hotel, opened the Carlton pub early so staff from Made's venues could commiserate and plan.

"We had up to 15 people on the phone the whole day, calling colleagues who didn't know. Working it out. The corner was alive with cellphones," says Ling who thinks that kind of support is essential. "It's like a wake. You start sad, but then people get talking about the good times."

What now? Wilkinson hoped to strike a deal to keep Crofter open, going as far as finding his staff temporary jobs at friends' businesses to tide them over, but he has indicated he could not reach a deal with the landlords and announced on Sunday night via Instagram that he is "sad" and "angry" with the whole situation.

KordaMetha administrators say they have reached in-principal agreements for three of the five restaurants and some of the Jimmy Grants. It is hoped new operators may rehire some of the displaced staff. The impact will still be felt.

A creditors' meeting on Thursday will reveal the extent of debts to suppliers. It is unlikely asset sales will raise enough for them to be paid. Staff who were on sponsored visas also face deportation unless they can find businesses willing to take over that sponsorship by May 1.

Big industry players such as Chris Lucas, Angie Giannakodakis and Gerald Diffey are calling for a summit to address how the industry can evolve to survive in the current climate.