Chef-restaurateur Neil Perry has parted ways from Urban Purveyor Group and is regaining control of the fine-dining restaurants he established under his original Rockpool empire.
Rockpool Dining Group, which formed in 2016 after a merger between Perry's Rockpool Group and Urban Purveyor Group (UPG), will split into two businesses.
Perry will regain control of his restaurant brands Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta under the Rockpool Group banner, as well as R Bar which opened under the watch of Rockpool Dining Group. The future of his fast-food chain Burger Project remains unclear.
Rockpool Dining Group's executive team comprising of Thomas Pash, Frank Tucker and Michael Campbell will form Pacific Concepts and retain Saké Restaurant & Bar, The Cut and Bar Patrón, as well as casual venues Fratelli Fresh, El Camino Cantina, The Bavarian, Munich Brauhaus, Beerhaüs, WingHAÜS by Bavarian and The Argyle.
"The separation will enable both entities to fully focus on their own strategic and ambitious growth plans, unrestricted by the larger Group," said Rockpool Dining Group chairman Jonathon Pearce in a statement.
The split follows rumours of a discontent between the celebrity chef and Urban Purveyor Group executives, with one former employee calling the split "inevitable". "It makes total sense – I don't think Neil aligned with Urban Purveyor Group, and it seemed like a strange merger to begin with," they said.
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. The merger of two prominent restaurant groups – one that largely accommodated for cashed-up metropolitan diners, the other focusing on casual dining experiences – was touted as a game changer for the trade, reflecting changes in the way we eat and live, and creating an ambitious new Australian food empire with plans for global expansion. "We don't want to grow too fast, or we're compromising quality," said CEO Thomas Pash at the time.
Since then, the group's portfolio has ballooned from 17 venues to more than 85 restaurants and bars in Australia and New Zealand, with a reported revenue of more than $400 million.
In 2019, the group made their first foray into the international market with the launch of The Bavarian in Auckland. Pacific Concepts is expected to expand to the US market later this year.
In a statement, the group announced the separation is expected to be complete in around 30 to 60 days, with Rockpool Group and Pacific Concepts then operating as fully independent businesses.
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.