The owners of Mary’s Group Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham.
The owners of Mary’s Group Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham.

Burger hipsters scrub controversial post

The owners of a hip inner-Sydney burger joint have quietly deleted a statement and social media post about poor staff attitudes, mental health and "work-life balance" after making headlines around the country.

Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham, the high-profile duo behind the Mary's Group, sparked a furious backlash last month after remarks about young hospitality workers being "whining" and "self-entitled".

In an episode of the Mary's brand podcast The Fat, Mr Smyth labelled some hospitality staff as "whining" and "self-entitled". In it, he also took aim at cancel culture, saying it was "almost impossible to run a business now without offending somebody".

Mr Smyth suggested since reforms in the hospitality industry, there'd been an overcorrection, going on to call work life-balance "(one of the) most dangerous terms young people have been introduced to".

 

It sparked a ferocious backlash both locally and nationally.

A follow-up statement in response to upset directed at the pair - who run Mary's Newtown, Mary's in the CBD, Mary's Underground at Circular Quay and the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington - sought to ease tensions, but copped more anger on social media.

 

 

In the statement, Mr Graham and Mr Smyth said they "firmly believe that we have earned a right to speak about our very non-entitled experience within our industry".

It also claimed comments made in the podcast "was to call out a disruptive minority attitude that seeks to lay the issues of Work/Life balance mental health solely at the feet of Employers", calling these attitudes "poisonous to all involved".

Now, both the statement and the subsequent post have been scrubbed from the internet, but the colourful hospitality duo deny it's due to embarrassment or public pressure.

Mr Smyth and Mr Graham told news.com.au that the statement had both a positive and negative outcome, and it was deleted after speaking directly with staff.

"We did not remove our statement due to pressure or negative comments," they said via their publicist.

Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham said releasing a high profile public statement had both positive and negative outcomes. Picture: Craig Wilson
Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham said releasing a high profile public statement had both positive and negative outcomes. Picture: Craig Wilson

The group's public statement, released through their website and Instagram account, claimed the "comments made in the Podcast and in the Article in the SMH were not intended at our staff, or directed at them individually or as a whole."

Mr Graham and Mr Smyth said their current staff received the comments "generally positively" and the statement helped them understand the article.

"In terms of public response, there were supporters and some detractors on our own social media," they said.

"We are happy to continue to acknowledge our statement, but felt that keeping it online was a reminder of a painful injury to our staff."

The Mary's owners said having their conversations framed as "unloading on staff" or having an "axe to grind with young workers is so incredibly inaccurate and caused great pain within our teams and wider industry".

"We wanted to publicly acknowledge that this was never our intent and to let the world know how deeply we value our colleagues industry."

The statement and post were removed after Mary's Group engaged with all their teams and staff in person, they said.

Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth at the site of Mary’s Underground before it was renovated. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth at the site of Mary’s Underground before it was renovated. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

"Our industry, businesses and real life is a home for honest conversation, the sharing of opinions and at its best, is a place for the deepening of understanding of others experience," the pair said.

"Online commentary can fail to nurture this aspect that we deeply care for in our business."

The duo said the backlash to the podcast and statement had been negative "in terms of the characterisation of our comments".

"But it has created much needed open dialogue between ourselves and our teams. We have been able to share and communicate very clearly and move towards creating clearer and stronger mechanisms for feedback and influence to be given."

In the weeks since the original article was published, the owners have taken the time to meet with all their staff, they said.

"Our priority was to meet with all our teams in person, to provide an opportunity for staff to share their thoughts and hear from us directly. We spoke about taking personal responsibility and we needed to show exactly that.

"These conversations have resulted in us reflecting on how we can improve the quality of conversation and culture within our company.

"Nuanced and delicate conversations are becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, and we are working on ways in which to better have these internally.

"Our sincere hope is that we can create a vibrant and flourishing culture that reflects back the ethics of our combined team.

"We are deeply passionate about our industry and are committed to improving the present and investing in our future leaders.

"We cannot do that without honest and respectful conversation and hope to continue to build that within our teams."

Originally published as Burger hipsters scrub controversial post


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