Hospitality boss Justin Hemmes has been forced to defend his food and drink prices after a heated interview about the cost of meals at Sydney’s multi-million dollar football stadium.
Concerns about the affordability of food and drink at the newly refurbished Sydney football stadium were raised during a heated interview with 2GB host Jim Wilson.
Mr Hemmes’ Merivale Group has taken over the restoration of the sports ground, which recently reopened after an $828million taxpayer-funded rebuild, as well as the Sydney Cricket Ground.
While he appreciated the quality of the new food and drink offerings, Wilson said the cost of meals and drinks at the stadium was “exorbitant” and unaffordable for families.
Mr Hemmes hit back at the criticism and argued that Merivale had introduced a range of products to give people choice.
“It’s not exorbitant,” he said.
“We have entry point offerings with improved quality at the same price.”
Wilson noted that beer pricing starts at $9.30 and peaks at $13.40 for Stone & Wood premium beer, which is well above the retail price at Dan Murphy’s.
He called on the pub baron to make food and drink more affordable, similar to the prices of the liquor chain or retailer Costco.
“It’s not a fair comparison,” replied Mr. Hemmes.
“You’re talking about very different companies and completely different business models. You can’t compare Dan Murphy’s to stadium surgery.
The hospitality giant, a veteran of the hospitality industry for more than three decades, pointed out that the cost of a Tooheys New beer was just a dollar more than most pubs in Sydney.
He also noted that the price hasn’t deterred footy fans, with the $13.40 premium beer being the best-selling choice “by far” for the first three matches at the stadium.
The owner of around 70 pubs said he employed 1,000 people to run the stadium’s 14 hospitality stands for two to three hours.
The “incredibly expensive” cost of operations currently exceeds the profit, according to Mr Hemmes.
“To organize the entertainment, to put the food, to put the drinks and all that goes with it, it’s one of the most expensive hotel businesses to run,” he said.
“We can’t lose money because we’re not even here to sell (food and drink).”
The heated row over the cost comes as Mr Hemmes continues to be embroiled in a protracted legal battle over alleged wage theft.
The pub baron’s company Merivale is accused of underpaying thousands of staff by $74 million over six years.
The class action was launched in early 2020 and is still ongoing. Mr. Hemmes denies any wrongdoing.