All but three of Jamie Oliver’s 25 UK restaurants are closing with the loss of 1,000 jobs after the business called in administrators.
The company, which includes 22 Jamie’s Italian outlets, plus the Fifteen and Barbecoa restaurants in London and Jamie’s Diner at Gatwick airport, appointed executives at advisory firm KPMG as administrators on Tuesday.
The administration could mark the end of Oliver’s UK restaurant empire, which began with the opening of Fifteen in London in 2002. Only his three outlets at Gatwick airport, which include the last Jamie’s Diner, will remain in operation as administrators seek a buyer.
Oliver said: “I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the staff and our suppliers who have put their hearts and souls into this business for over a decade. I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected.
“I would also like to thank all the customers who have enjoyed and supported us over the last decade, it’s been a real pleasure serving you.
“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.”
More than 61 overseas outlets, including 25 overseas Jamie’s Italians as well as Fifteen in Cornwall, all of which are run by franchisees, are unaffected by the administration.
Will Wright, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said: “The current trading environment for companies across the casual dining sector is as tough as I’ve ever seen. The directors at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group have worked tirelessly to stabilise the business against a backdrop of rising costs and brittle consumer confidence. However, after a sales process which sought to bring new investment into the business proved unsuccessful, the team took the incredibly difficult decision to appoint administrators.
He continued: “Unfortunately, with insufficient funds available to be able to trade the business in administration, all but the Gatwick airport restaurants have now closed. Our priority in the coming hours and days is to work with those employees who have been made redundant, providing any support and assistance they need.”
The group had been seeking buyers in recent months after Oliver 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 administration comes after sales at Jamie’s Italian dived by nearly 11% last year to £101m as it closed 12 restaurants and made about 600 staff redundant.
Last year, the chain was only saved from bankruptcy by a last-minute £13m injection of cash from Oliver, part of almost £17m of new funding provided to keep the restaurants afloat.
Oliver got his big break when a visiting TV crew spotted him while he was working at the River Cafe in Hammersmith in 1997, leading to his own show The Naked Chef.
Since then he has built a TV, publishing and restaurant empire which has had its ups and downs. The Essex-born chef has admitted that 40% of his business ventures were failures.
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In 2015, Oliver shut the last branch of Recipease – his chain of cookery shops – and the last of his four British-themed Union Jacks restaurants went the same way two years later. In October 2017, his food magazine, Jamie, ceased publication after almost 10 years.
The business empire slumped to a loss of nearly £20m last year, dragged down by a grim year at the restaurant chain.
Oliver’s media business, which includes his cookery books and TV shows, continues to thrive, according to accounts published last year, but his licensing business, of which he owns more than half in partnership with other investors and includes cooking equipment and homewares, has also seen profits fall.