Dillingers boss and former head chef face off over alleged workplace abuse

John Farrell and Kingsley Auguste trade allegations over causes of restaurant bust-up during Covid pandemic

A leading Dublin restaurateur has denied allegations of racial discrimination and workplace rights breaches levelled by his former head chef – accusing the chef of having such a temper that he considered calling gardaí on Christmas Eve two years ago.

Kinsley Auguste has brought claims under the Organisation of Working Time Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act and the Employment Equality Act against Dillingers Restaurant Ltd in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, where he was head chef until February 2022. He alleges excessive working hours, the failure to provide shift breaks or any premium pay for Sunday work.

The claims were denied by restaurateur John Farrell at the Workplace Relations Commission on Monday.

Under oath, the men traded accusations about the running of the restaurant, the alleged attitude of its management towards non-Irish staff, and a Christmas Eve row in 2021 that ultimately led Mr Auguste to resign.


The complainant said the executive chef at the restaurant group phoned him up at 6am on Christmas Eve 2021 telling him that he was to go to Dillingers to assist a manager drafted in from another group restaurant. Both of the usual managers at Dillingers were out sick with Covid-19, and the Government had ordered 8pm closures across the hospitality sector just days earlier.

Mr Auguste said that when he arrived at 7am, the manager was crying about phoning customers to cancel bookings and told him: “I can’t deal with Johnny.”

With the prep done for that day, the restaurant was “ready to go for service”, Mr Auguste said, but Mr Farrell arrived at 10.30am and wanted the menu changed.

“Me and Mr Farrell, we have a big clash, because he knew that the menu that day was set up three or four weeks before, and he never said anything. Only half an hour before service,” Mr Auguste said.

He said Mr Farrell was “roaring” at someone on the restaurant floor and the manager was saying she would not work at Dillingers.

“Then he sent me home and tells me I am suspended without any warning or anything. That ruined the whole day with my family. I will never forget that year,” he said.

“That wouldn’t be my recollection,” Mr Farrell said. “There’s a lot of people who would be able to clarify numerous events, Kingsley would have got quite aggressive that morning.” He added that the references to the floor manager were “quite confusing”.

“[Mr Auguste] started to bang things, scream and shout. I actually had to tell him to leave because his behaviour was so aggressive to the point that I was about to call the guards if he didn’t stop. He went out and stood around in the laneway – at that point I told him to go home,” he said.

“That sounds like the end of the relationship,” said adjudicating officer Catherine Byrne.

On the pay and working hours complaints, the tribunal heard Mr Auguste’s contract made provision for shift work up to 48 hours per week, with the employer’s position being that the premium was provided for in the complainant’s €798-a-week pay.

Mr Auguste said he worked “every Sunday with no exceptions” as the restaurant stayed open Wednesday through Sunday, with Monday and Tuesday the only days off. He said his hours of work were more like 55 to 60 hours a week and that accordingly he had gone without pay as his contract only covered a shorter working week and he had not been given time off in lieu.

Denying the complaints, Mr Farrell said the head chef “would have been in charge of the roster, in charge of his own days off”.

“Sunday would be a very busy day, part of what the restaurant is, and we’d always pay a lot more over the minimum wage to factor in these things,” he said.