‘I don’t want to cry, but I don’t know what to do’: Michel’s Patisserie franchisee

‘I don’t want to cry, but I don’t know what to do’: Michel’s Patisserie franchisee DEBT: Michel’s Patisserie, Charlestown Square, owner, Devi Trimuryani. Picture: Marina Neil
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DEBT: Michel’s Patisserie, Charlestown Square, owner, Devi Trimuryani. Picture: Marina Neil

DEBT: Michel’s Patisserie, Charlestown Square, owner, Devi Trimuryani. Picture: Marina Neil

DEBT: Michel’s Patisserie, Charlestown Square, owner, Devi Trimuryani. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookDeviTrimuryaniis in debt up to the eyeballs. After buying a Michel’s Patisserie in 2012 she has torched her life savings and racked up debts of $100,000 to Retail Food Group.

“I worked hard and saved up every dollar and it is worth nothing,” she says. “I don’t want to cry, but I don’t know what to do.”

She says her husband is working another job to help her pay the weekly bills.

“I tried to sell the business last year but who’s going to buy a store that loses money?” she says. She has also considered closing the store and becoming bankrupt but was talked out of it.

“I told them I was done, I’m finished but they says stay on the ground and only pay half the rent.”

MsTrimuryaniis one of hundreds of franchisees struggling in a Retail Food Group store. RFG isa listed company that controls franchisebrands including Michel’s, Donut King, Gloria Jeans, Brumby’s and Crust Gourmet Pizzas.

Read more:Small business owners pushed to the wall by Australia’s biggest food franchisor, Retail Food Group

When RFG told her to only pay half the rent, she didn’t realise it would keep accruing. She currently owes RFG $100,000 in back rent. “I’m working 60 to 70 hours a week and I have been screaming for help since 2015,” she says. Her lease is up in 2018.

Trimuryanibought the Michel’s franchised store in Charlestown, Newcastle in 2012 for $150,000. It was a dream come true to run her own business after coming to Australia from Indonesia in 2006.

But she soon realised that the weekly sales weren’t enough to cover the rent. Then there were labour costs, food supplies and other costs to pay.

Trimuryanisays besides the high cost of running the business, the quality of some of the products has affected sales.

She says sales figures fell when RFG rolled out a new model, known as the frozen model, because cakes and biscuits were delivered frozen instead of being delivered fresh daily.

“The products are often damaged and they aren’t fresh,” she says. “It’s hard to compete because the products aren’t good enough and they are expensive”.

But a recent offer from the landlord of the centre to cut the rent and increased sales ahead of Christmas has givenTrimuryanihope.

“I’m hoping RFG can negotiate for me as the lease is under their name but apparently the negotiations never happen.”

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