M B Australia and Elite Luxury International, which combined form the trading entity known as Max Brenner Australia, appointed McGrathNicol as administrators on 30 September.
According to its website, Max Brenner currently has 37 cafes across Australia, in every state and territory except Tasmania, although it is heavily concentrated in NSW and Queensland. The business is headquartered and has its distribution centre in Alexandria in inner Sydney.
Max Brenner also has outlets in the US, Japan, Israel and Russia, although the Australian business operates under a franchise agreement from its international parent company.
McGrathNicol said that all 37 of the Australian outlets will continue to trade as normal while a review is undertaken, meaning the chain’s roughly 600-strong workforce still have jobs for the moment.
“We are assessing the prospects of completing a going concern sale of the business or a recapitalisation through the voluntary administration process,” the administrators said.
Fairfax Media reported that Max Brenner Australia was subject to a wind-up notice with ASIC in June this year from a Queensland business called Sunstate Ceilings.
It claimed Max Brenner had catapulted its owners, Tom and Lilly Haikin, onto the BRW Young Rich List in 2013, but the business has since been weighed down by “rising costs and sluggish retail trade”.
Max Brenner subsequently issued a statement lamenting the demise of the recognisable brand, which it attributed in part to rent hikes and labour costs.
“Max Brenner Chocolate Bar (AKA Chocolate by the Bald Man) was established in Australia in July 2000. Owned and operated locally by Australian couple Tamir and Lilly Haikin, Max Brenner Australia pioneered a new chocolate culture worldwide, creating a previously non-existent market segment of chocolate-based cafés, now known as Chocolate Bars,” it said.
“Millions of Australians, throughout the majority of states and territories, have enjoyed the brand’s signature hot chocolates and created personalised Max Brenner memories over the years.
“Despite previous success, the brand has struggled with exceedingly challenging commercial terms. These include escalating rent, finance and employment costs. These factors have made it unattainable to continue to operate effectively under the current circumstances.”
The statement signed off by urging “chocaholics” to show their support for the business and its employees by continuing to visit its cafes, and thanking staff and customers “for their extraordinary support”.