Coronavirus and a mountain of debt has failed to kill off Criniti’s, with the restaurant chain finding an 11th-hour buyer when it appeared set to close its doors for good.
Six of the chain’s 13 Italian eateries shut down after the business went into administration on November 19 owing more than $16.5million.
The remaining seven restaurants closed on April 3 due to the coronavirus pandemic, having earlier switched to takeaway only to comply with government restrictions.
A $6.1million buyout deal fell through last week and it was widely reported creditors voted to throw in the towel on resurrection efforts.
‘The sale process was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the purchaser withdrew their offer,’ administrators from Worrells wrote in their report.
But in a stunning turn of events, Worrells on Tuesday announced a ‘slimmed-down’ Criniti’s would re-open under new owners Brunelli Group, a South Australian-based Italian restaurant chain.
Collapsed restaurant chain Criniti’s will return to business as six of its thirteen restaurants are set to be re-opened. Pictured: Bachelor star Noni Janur at the restaurant
Six of the Italian eateries (Parramatta pictured) were closed after the business went into administration on November 19 with debts of more than $16.5million
‘The retail environment has never been more challenging so we’re very pleased that a slimmed-down Criniti’s will be revived,’ Worrells administrator Graeme Beattie told Daily Mail Australia in a statement.
‘Our faith has been rewarded. This is a remarkable tale of retail survival and a testament to the strength of the Criniti’s brand name.’
The acquisition of Criniti’s is set to double the size of the Brunelli Group and expand the company’s reach across three Australian states.
The six existing Brunelli restaurants will be joined by the six remaining Criniti’s stores at Castle Hill, Parramatta, Darling Harbour, Kotara in Newcastle, as well as Carlton and Southbank in Victoria.
The surviving locations would keep the ‘casual’ dining experience Criniti’s has always offered customers, the administrators said.
The Manly, Kirrawee, Wollongong, Chermside (Queensland) and Carousel (Western Australia) Criniti’s restaurants have been closed since November 2019.
Woolloomooloo Criniti’s was closed in January this year and Wetherill Park shut down in April.
The Italian restaurant chain posted to Instagram in April saying they would return
The chain, founded in 2003, was managed by Frank Criniti (left) and his wife Rima (right) until they divorced in 2009 and he was left in charge
The chain’s sudden collapse in November came as a shock to industry rivals, but people who had dined there said it ‘didn’t surprise them at all’.
Hundreds of negative online reviews litter the internet, highlighting the restaurant’s ‘tacky decor’ and ‘disgusting food’.
Diners said Criniti’s tried to expand too fast and lost business by charging excessive prices for ‘average’ pizza and pasta.
‘When you hang a $120,000 Ducati from the ceiling and park an Aventador inside your shop just for show but have very sub standard service and still expect high prices and flashy s*** to give repeat business?’ one person said.
‘They were always a sad imitation of real Italian food… it was just a matter of time,’ another wrote.
Rima Criniti (pictured) said the Criniti clan made several errors which included accumulated debts and rapid expansion
Another said the menu – which included a chicken schnitzel and chips for $38 – was enough to turn them off ever dining at Criniti’s again.
The chain, founded in 2003, was managed by Frank Criniti and his wife Rima until they divorced in 2009 and he was left in charge.
Rima told Daily Mail Australia: ‘While I left the business almost a decade ago, I have continued to dine at Criniti’s with my children, and have always loved the food and the experience.
‘However, it takes more than fantastic food and hospitality to make a restaurant group a success.’
Diners said Criniti’s tried to expand too fast and lost business by charging excessive prices for ‘average’ pizza and pasta
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CRINITI’S CHAIN
Criniti’s was founded at Parramatta in Sydney’s western suburbs in 2003 by Frank Criniti and his wife Rima. They were both just 23
The menu was designed to combine traditional Southern Italian food and contemporary Australian cuisine.
The Crinitis opened their second eatery at Darling Harbour in 2009, the year Rima left the business. The business became their flagship outlet.
Criniti’s became famous for their flashy fit-outs featuring Italian motorcycles and sports cars.
More NSW outlets followed at Woolloomooloo Wharf, Kirrawee and Manly in Sydney, Wollongong, and Kotara in Newcastle.
Criniti’s spread interstate to Chermside in Brisbane, Cannington in Perth, and Southbank and Carlton in Melbourne.
Some customers have complained the quality of food and service went down while prices continued to go up as the business expanded.
On 19 November, 2019 the chain went into voluntary administration and five of its 13 restaurants were closed. A sixth was closed in January.