In Depth

How Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire collapsed

The Essex-born chef thanks staff and customers as 25 of his eateries face closure

Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant Group, which includes Jamie’s Italian, Barbecoa and Fifteen, has gone into administration, putting up to 1,300 jobs at risk.

The chef has thanked all the staff, suppliers and customers who supported the group over the last decade and said he was “devastated” that 25 of his restaurants would have to close.

“I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected,” he said.

So what went wrong?

After leaving school at the age of 16 with two GCSEs, Essex-born Oliver was discovered by chance by BBC producers when he was working as a sous-chef at the River Cafe in west London. In 1999, he starred in The Naked Chef and shortly after published his first of many bestselling cookbooks.

More TV shows and documentaries followed, and Oliver became one of the richest chefs in the world. In 2002, he launched Fifteen in London, and six years later he opened his first Jamie’s Italian restaurant, in Oxford, as part of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group.

This week, Oliver said: “We launched Jamie’s Italian in 2008 with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining in the UK high street, with great value and much higher quality ingredients, best-in-class animal welfare standards and an amazing team who shared my passion for great food and service. And we did exactly that.”

But the business has faced difficulties over the past two years, with a number of Jamie’s Italian and Barbecoa restaurants shutting, says the BBC.

Two years ago, the last of Oliver’s British-themed Union Jacks restaurants closed, as did his magazine Jamie.

The Guardian reports that Oliver has “decided to sell up amid heavy competition in the casual dining market that has already seen chains such as Carluccio’s, Byron Burger and Gourmet Burger Kitchen close outlets”.

The newspaper says the TV star’s media business continues to thrive, but his licensing business has seen profits fall.

Simon Mydlowski, a partner at law firm Gordons and a hospitality industry expert, told the Daily Mirror that restaurateurs have to be “constantly evolving” in the current market.

“The high-street restaurant sector is changing at an incredible pace and it seems Jamie’s is the latest brand that was not able to keep up,” Mydlowski said.

“A number of suppliers will have been caught unawares here, perhaps showing a little too much trust in the Jamie Oliver name, but this is not the first big restaurant chain to have suffered and it won’t be the last.”

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