Chef-restaurateur Neil Perry is stepping away from Rockpool Dining Group, the powerhouse hospitality group with a portfolio of more than 85 restaurants and bars, including his flagship restaurants Rockpool Bar & Dining in Melbourne and Sydney.
In a press release this afternoon, the group announced Perry's "retirement" as its day-to-day culinary director and ambassador.He will, however, remain a consultant and major shareholder of the group.
Perry will now turn his focus to Hope Delivery, a charity initiative that provides free meals to vulnerable members of the community. The charity was established during the current COVID-19 crisis to support workers in the industry who were exempt from government welfare support.
"As the business now needs to embark on a new chapter it is time for a fresh start. It will never be easy to move on from the restaurants I founded, and I do so with a heavy heart, but as the business and the sector set their sights on new beginnings, it is the right time for the next generation to have the opportunity afforded to me over 40 years ago," said Perry in a statement.
In March this year, Perry was slated to consciously uncouple from the group and regain control of the fine-dining venues he established under his original Rockpool empire, including flagship restaurants Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta.
Rockpool Dining Group's executive team comprising of Thomas Pash, Frank Tucker and Michael Campbell were to form a separate company called Pacific Concepts and retain Saké Restaurant & Bar, The Cut and Bar Patrón, and casual venues including Fratelli Fresh and El Camino Cantina.
Rockpool Dining Group formed in 2016 after a merger between Perry's Rockpool Group and Urban Purveyor Group (UPG). At the time, the deal was described as one of the biggest in Australian hospitality, with UPG acquiring Perry's restaurant business for a reported $65 million.
However, rumours continued to swirl of discontent between Perry and UPG executives, spurred by the group's aggressive expansion of its casual venues. Since the merger, the group's portfolio has ballooned from 17 to 85 venues in Australia and New Zealand, with a reported revenue of more than $400 million.
In 2018, Rockpool Dining Group was embroiled in a very public wage theft scandal that involved an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, and the hospitality group back-paying workers $1.6 million in unpaid overtime wages.