Ex-employees of Karen’s Diner have lashed out at the controversial company after alleging customers took the experience too far and abused staff.
The restaurant chain, which opened across Australia last year, is notorious for its staff being deliberately rude to diners, encouraging customers to ‘make the banter’.
The restaurant has a list of “house rules” where things like body shaming, sexual harassment, racism, sexism and homophobia are not tolerated.
But some employees have said this is not the case, claiming they were on the receiving end of customers who verbally and physically abused them.
Former ‘Karens’ Molly Harris and Kaliya Arumugam recently started a petition calling on WorkSafe Victoria to visit the restaurant, which they described as ‘downright dangerous’.
Ex-employees of the infamous Karen’s Diner have lashed out at the company after alleging customers took the experience too far and abused staff
“Customers are encouraged to be rude and behave like ‘Karens’ and as workers we were regularly racially abused, sexually harassed, subjected to homophobia and fat shaming and threatened with physical violence,” the petition read.
“Customers have shown us indecent photos, pushed us against walls, groped us and lifted our dresses.
“Some of us have exposed our identities online, abused at other jobs and harassed on the street.”
The pair accused management of “wiping up” incidents and even firing or cutting services for staff who complained.
A spokesperson for WorkSafe Victoria told Daily Mail Australia: ‘WorkSafe has visited the site and the investigation continues’.
Ms Arumugam said she was excited to work at the restaurant, but the experience quickly soured – and she left after just six months.
Karen’s Diner prides itself on its ‘rude service’ with staff told to fire insults at customers as part of the experience
“These incidents range from my personal image, such as insults about my physical appearance, body shaming, racist remarks and sexual harassment and physical assault,” she told the paper. ABC.
She only worked at the restaurant for six months and once claimed that a group of men “physically threatened her” and even waited for her outside the room.
Ms Arumugam claims that managers have done little to intervene and that getting a bad review was their main concern.
“There were incidents where we had to call the police and have people removed…and they were just never really taken seriously by management,” she said.
Harris, who uses non-sexual pronouns, said that during their second shift, a man reached under their dress and claimed the manager “didn’t do anything about it.”
In September, a man among staff at Brisbane’s Karen’s Diner exploded after they joked about his receding hairline.
“What’s the only thing your damn sign says? No body shaming!’ the man hears yelling in a TikTok of the encounter, pointing to the house rules at the entrance.
In September, a man at the Brisbane Karen’s Diner staff exploded after they joked about his receding hairline
He was then seen throwing a container of straws on the floor while pouring water from a plastic bottle over the restaurant counter.
Speaking about the meeting on their TikTok, Harris said that while working at the restaurant, many of the house rules were ignored.
“I’m not educated at all,” they said.
“I worked a trial shift, all I learned on that shift was how to make a milkshake. I didn’t get any training until people started complaining quite a bit, and then we had a training where we pretty much got yelled at me.”
Harris also shared a photo of a disclaimer they had to sign saying they wouldn’t sue the company if they got injured on the job.
“I acknowledge that I am aware of the atmosphere and nature of the venue and the potential risks and conflicts that may arise when dealing with customers,” the waiver reads.
Former employees have claimed they were harassed and verbally abused by customers, with management doing little to help
Karen’s Diner’s parent company, Viral Ventures, said there was “zero tolerance” for rule breakers.
Viral Ventures operations director Mark Smith said anyone who broke the rules was asked to leave immediately, but that had only happened “a few times.”
He said the staff didn’t have to sign a waiver, but an earlier version of a handbook did have one.
He also acknowledged body shaming, but denied any inappropriate behavior towards staff.
“We have no reports or incidents that that has ever happened,” he told the publication.
When Daily Mail Australia contacted Karen’s Diner for further comment, a spokesperson said the company “takes these allegations very seriously”.
“The allegations made by these former employees were not incidents brought to the attention of the site manager or senior management at any point during their tenure at Karen’s Diner,” they said.
“We had no recorded incidents or cases reported with these parties while they were employed by Karen’s Diner. We work tirelessly to protect staff and anyone who harasses, bullies or touches our staff will be immediately banned and removed from the site. We have house rules that can be found in all locations and anyone who breaks these rules will be immediately removed.’
Karen’s Diner has restaurants in Australia, Canada, UK, US, Asia and New Zealand.
FULL STATEMENT OF KAREN’S DINNER
First, we take these allegations very seriously and have worked tirelessly to provide a safe and fun environment for all of our employees and customers at all of our Karen’s Diner locations.
The allegations made by these former employees were not incidents brought to the attention of the site manager or senior management at any time during their tenure at Karen’s Diner.
We had not reported any recorded incidents or cases with these parties while employed by Karen’s Diner. We work tirelessly to protect staff and anyone who harasses, bullies or touches our staff will be immediately banned and removed from the site. We have a set of house rules that can be found in all locations and anyone who breaks these rules will be removed immediately.
Employees are not forced to sign our handbook and we would not ask staff to sign a handbook that would absolve us of any wrongdoing, this is not even possible. The claims come from a small number of employees who have been fired for their own performance, misconduct and dealings with customers. The waiver in question was removed (months ago) and never enforced by employees. Many employees have never signed this but still work at Karen’s Diner.
There are a small number of people who claim that Karen’s Diner is an unsafe environment based on claims that were never brought to the attention of the team. On the other hand, we have hundreds of employees who would say otherwise and who enjoy working at Karen’s Diner. We have weekly training sessions and meetings with staff, and one-on-one meetings with all relevant staff members when issues arise.
Not only are these claims false, but they also hurt all the hard work the brand and staff put in to provide a fun experience and safe work environment for everyone.
Viral Ventures claims that Karen’s Diner has a “zero tolerance” policy on harassment and that customers who break rules would be kicked out. We’ve only had to do that a few times where we’ve had some unruly customers, and that’s mainly in terms of customers doing some damage in the venue. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us.
An employee shared a photo of a disclaimer she had to sign while working at the restaurant. The company has since said that staff don’t have to sign it