A controversial restaurant chain that won short-lived fame from its intentionally rude waiters and ‘terrible service’ endured several store closures, customer complaints and dozens of bad reviews before its collapse.
Viral Ventures Australia, which owns Karen’s Diner and Broadway Diner, confirmed the restaurant chain had gone into liquidation on May 30.
The company is now $4.3million in debt, with 56 creditors lodging claims for the money they are owed this week.
Here, Daily Mail Australia revisits some of the chain’s most controversial moments – including a waiter calling a father a ‘pedo’ in front of his children, poking fun at a diner’s receding hairline and telling a woman she looked ‘bulimic’.
A popular but controversial restaurant chain that built its reputation on insulting customers in the name of fun has collapsed owing $4.3million
Viral Ventures Australia, which owns Karen’s Diner and Broadway Diner, confirmed the restaurant chain had gone into liquidation on May 30
Karen’s Diner opened its first store on Sydney’s George Street in October 2021, followed by franchises in major hubs like Melbourne’s Southbank in April 2022 and Queensland’s Surfers Paradise in July 2022.
Last September, the company announced plans to open a restaurant at Riverlink Shopping Centre in Ipswich, in Queensland’s southeast.
Director of Viral Adventures Aden Levin said the store would open in early to mid November 2022 and told fans to keep their ‘eyes peeled’ for updates.
However, the store never opened.
The announcement of several new franchises came as Karen’s Diner was becoming more widely known for its unusual way of operating.
Staff were encouraged to be purposefully rude to customers; however, several diners publicly complained that in some instances their servers had gone too far.
Viral Ventures Australia is now $4.3million in debt, with 56 creditors lodging claims for the money they are owed
Karen’s Diner forced to apologise
Last July, the restaurant famous for insulting their patrons was forced to apologise after a Queensland family complained the jokes had got out of hand.
Stacey Howard was dining with his family when he was left ‘disgusted’ by a waiter at Karen’s Diner in Westfield Chermside in Brisbane.
Mr Howard claimed the waiter serving his table overstepped his bounds by levelling several sexual insults at the family that included calling him a ‘pedo’, accusing him of incest and asking his 14-year-old daughter if she had an OnlyFans account.
OnlyFans is subscription-based website where people pay money to access private photos and videos of a person, usually of a sexual manner.
‘My daughter was doing a Facebook Live and this young guy came up and said, “Are you on OnlyFans, you tart? Here’s some content for you,” and he pretended to w*** himself off and jizz on the table,’ he told the Courier Mail.
Mr Howard said his daughter was worried after the waiter called her father a ‘pedophile’ and said he was ‘keeping it in the family’.
‘My daughter sat on my lap because she was concerned and he said, “What, are you a pedo? Are you all having sex with each other?”‘
Stacey Howard was dining with his family when he was left ‘disgusted’ by a waiter at Karen’s Diner in Chermside, Brisbane
The outraged father said the family stood up and left the diner feeling incredibly uncomfortable about the comments.
He claimed a seven-year-old boy dining at the restaurant was also called a ‘c***’.
Mr Howard’s family later phoned the restaurant demanding an apology.
Karen’s Diner may be known for its rude waiters but the restaurant lists a set of rules on its website that sets boundaries for customers and staff.
‘No racism, no sexism, no homophobic comments, no body images comments, no ableist comments, do not touch our staff and no sexual remarks towards staff members,’ the website reads.
A Karen’s Diner spokeswoman ‘wholeheartedly’ apologised to the family and told Daily Mail Australia the incident was being investigated.
This incident was raised to us directly and we are currently conducting a thorough investigation,’ she said.
‘As a venue, we are all about offering a fun experience for all patrons. We have strict guidelines in place for both staff and customers, so we were really disappointed to learn of this incident that occurred on Sunday.’
A fed-up customer exploded at staff at a Brisbane Karen’s Diner after an employee allegedly made fun of his receding hairline
Hairline joke is taken too far
Just a few months after the ‘OnlyFans’ incident, a fed-up Karen’s Diner customer complained after a staff member allegedly made a joke about his receding hairline.
Bec Hardgrave, a Queensland health coach, posted a now-viral TikTok video of her experience at the restaurant in September 2022, telling followers: Get this, they told this guy that he had a receding hairline, and this is what he did’.
‘What’s the one thing your f**king sign says? No body shaming!’ the man is heard yelling, while pointing to the house rules at the entrance.
Ms Hardgrave said while she was at the restaurant, staff threw cups at her table and told one of her friends she needed to ‘brush her hair’.
‘Me and my friends went to Karen’s Diner, and safe to say I probably won’t come back,’ she told her followers in the video.
‘I know they’re paid to be mean to you, but it was a little too hectic. They were making offensive comments about people’s appearances.
‘They told my friend she needs to brush her hair, how mean is that. They told my other friend that she was too old and threw cups at us.’
Influencer Cherry Hart (pictured) was told by a Karen’s Diner waitress that she looked ‘bulimic’
Influencer told by waitress she looks ‘bulimic’
Social media star Cherry Hart said when the incident happened she ‘didn’t think it was a big deal as I thought that that was what they did.
‘When finding out (its policy is) ‘No body shaming’ is when I posted.’
The drama unfolded when Hart and a male friend ordered desert.
She ordered ‘the Karen’s Seasonal Waffle Bowl and the Nutty Karen’.
The waitress looked at her disapprovingly and said: ‘You do realise that dessert is f***ing huge, I doubt you’re going to eat it.
‘You look like you’re bulimic.’
Hart replied with what she called an ‘uncomfy laugh’.
The waitress took this as confirmation and said: ‘You laughed, so I must be right.’
Staff at Karen’s Diner are encouraged to be intentionally rude for entertainment purposes
Karen’s Diner could be ‘incredibly dangerous’
In August 2022, a clinical psychologist warned that parents should think twice before exposing their children to the abusive outbursts heard inside Karen’s Diner.
Associate Professor Helen Stallman, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, said the behaviour of staff could be ‘problematic’ for young diners.
‘Any exposure to abuse is really problematic for kids,’ she told News Corp.
‘They don’t have the cognitive capacity to screen things out, and having said that, neither do many adults.’
Professor Stallman said customers could brood on a nasty comment they received from staff at the diner for months after the experience.
Customer called a ‘filthy ranger’ complains
In September 2022, a young woman detailed how a waitress at Karen’s Diner had made her cry after calling her a ‘filthy ranga’.
‘I love roleplay, improv, acting, all of that stuff so I was so excited,’ she told TikTok.
‘But it was really horrible, it was uncomfortable. They just literally bullied me. About my hair. They said some horrible things and they weren’t even creative about it.
She said a staff member called her a ‘filthy ranga’ and told to get her ‘hair fixed’, adding she hadn’t been spoken to in that way since high school.
‘It was really triggering, I actually started crying when the waitress was speaking to me like that and I asked her to stop, and she said no,’ she said.
Another woman, who goes by the TikTok username @clanciitalks, said she had been ‘so excited’ to visit Karen’s Diner but that a waitress had ‘bullied’ her about her hair
Stores suddenly close
In June 2023, Karen’s Diner announced that three locations in Surfers Paradise, Perth and Melbourne would all be shutting up shop.
It marked the end of an era for the chain in Victoria and Western Australia.
‘Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and Karen can’t stay forever! Today marks the closing of some of our Australian pop-up stores,’ the company wrote on Facebook.
‘If your local pop-up store has closed, there will be a Karen’s Diner On Tour coming to your city this September.
‘Karen can’t stay away and needs to give you a piece of her mind.’
An ex-employee said they were told to tell customers that the store had only been a pop-up, despite being previously told by employers it was permanent.
‘Now I’ve been told it was a pop up that had run its course and now time for their next big venture … it all went to a flop,’ they told NewsCorp.
There remains only one store in Adelaide, one in Brisbane and two in Sydney.