Retail Food Group in spat with cafes over alleged stuff-ups
Retail Food Group, already under the pump on multiple fronts, faces an intensifying battle with some of its clients who regularly order its Di Bella coffee.
Brisbane cafe owners and other hospitality operators allege they have suffered a raft of ordering and delivery stuff-ups since the start of the year.
Some of the disputes, including a few in other states, now even threaten to spill over into the courts.
The embattled Gold Coast group, with Peter George at the helm, relocated its Di Bella headquarters from Brisbane to Sydney starting late last year.
Disgruntled clients allege that this move appears to have thrown a few spanners into the supply chain operation.
These clients tell City Beat there have been numerous instances of deliveries to wrong addresses and an inability to track shipments or provide delivery date certainty.
When some packages arrive, they are incomplete and come with no prior warning that contractually-specified amounts of beans could not be provided.
Some complain of a recent four-week period when coffee was not delivered at all, with random consignments showing up without invoices.
Others say stop orders have been slapped on accounts without warning, resulting in no delivery and no reason given for why the freeze was put in place.
One cafe chain operator told your diarist that things got so bad that he ran out of coffee and lost about $10,000 in revenue.
In desperation, he bought coffee from a competitor, a move which prompted RFG to threaten legal action because he was obligated to sell the Di Bella brand!
Not surprisingly, we hear several Brisbane clients have already parted ways with RFG.
An RFG spin doctor acknowledged that "isolated errors can occur from time to time consistent with any business in the midst of the Covid shutdown'' but maintained the group still has a high rate of delivery in full and on time.
She blamed a cyber-attack for "a brief period earlier in the year where distribution operations were impacted by circumstances outside Di Bella Coffee's control''.
She said the group quickly sourced alternative distribution channels to ensure continuity of service and also regularly communicates with clients.
These dramas follow RFG's announcement last month of a restructure of its wholesale coffee business, touting $6m in annual savings.
It has moved to separate its retail brands, including the likes of Donut King, Crust Pizza and Brumby's Bakeries, from its coffee roasting and supply arm and its dairy processing business.
The shake-up comes during a horror period for RFG, which suffered a $149m net loss in the 2019 financial year and still has a share price stuck in the doldrums.
The group, which also includes Gloria Jeans, Michel Patisseries and Pizza Capers, has been buffeted by scandals related to poor treatment of franchisees and underpayment of staff, as well as multiple investigations by regulators.
Meanwhile, Brisbane coffee baron Phil Di Bella, who sold his self-named business to RFG for $47 million in 2014, continues work on his new "coffee commune'' concept.
The $3 million project, now under construction in Bowen Hills, is set to open early next year as a membership-based venue for suppliers, roasters, baristas and venue owners.
COMING TO GRIEF
A native of the UK who ran a tow bar manufacturing business in Logan with her husband has come to grief.
Jane Ward made the tough decision this week to put her company Matrix (Qld) Pty Ltd, trading as MTX Tow Bars Qld, into liquidation.
Records show the Underwood-based business started operation in 2017 with her husband, David Ward, as a director. He stepped down in July last year and she took over as sole director.
Just a month before resigning as an MTX director, he started up a separate entity, Outback Towbars, which remains intact.
Liquidator Jonathan McLeod said Thursday it was too early to say how much MTX owed to unsecured creditors.
Originally published as RFG in spat with cafe operators over alleged stuff-ups