Jamie Oliver is to close six of his Italian restaurants after tough trading and the “pressures and unknowns” following the Brexit vote.
Oliver intends to close Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Aberdeen, Exeter, Cheltenham, Richmond, Tunbridge Wells and Ludgate Hill, near London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, by the end of the first quarter of the year.
“As every restaurant owner knows, this is a tough market and post-Brexit the pressures and unknowns have made it even harder,” said Simon Blagden, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group.
The closures will affect about 120 employees, less than 5% of the restaurant chain’s total staff, and the company aims to offer them alternative jobs at other Jamie’s Italian outlets.
“These closures are in no way a reflection on the the dedication and commitment of our staff and my first priority is to try and secure those affected alternative jobs,” said Blagden. “Where this isn’t possible, we’ll be working with them to find alternative employment.”
Blagden said a combination of high costs on ingredients, staff training and lower footfall had forced the restaurant closures.
“Because we refuse to compromise on the quality and provenance of our ingredients and our commitment to training and developing our staff, we need restaurants that can serve an average of 3,000 covers every week to be sustainable,” he added.
Blagden said the six restaurants accounted for less than 5% of the restaurant chain’s total turnover and overall the chain continues to perform well home and abroad.
“In the UK we will be focusing on our core Jamie’s Italian estate and on the expansion of the Barbecoa brand which will see two new openings in 2017,” he said. “Internationally we plan to launch another 22 Jamie’s Italian restaurants with our current partners and are also looking forward to focusing on running and developing further our newly acquired Australian restaurants.”
In November, Oliver moved to buy back his restaurants business in Australia after Keystone Group, which ran the operation, went into receivership and put the six-strong franchise up for sale.
Oliver currently has 42 Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the UK and more than 36 abroad run under his name.
“Our overall business is in very good shape, we finished last year with like for like sales growth and an increase in covers,” said Blagden. “Jamie’s Italian has become a much loved presence on the UK high street and we have our teams to thank for that.”
In 2015, Oliver’s group of companies, which also spans areas including TV production, his range of books and the FoodTube digital venture, increased its total revenues by 2% to £158m with pre-tax profits of £10.2m.
The biggest contributor was Jamie’s Italian, where turnover rose by nearly 9% to £116.1m, although profits fell by 39% from £3.8m to £2.3m due to fees from a failed process to bring in private equity backing.
In 2015, Oliver closed the last of his delicatessens, Recipease, in Notting Hill just before Christmas affecting 40 staff; it followed the closure of branches in Clapham Junction and Brighton the previous year.
In 2014, Oliver gave up an attempt to revive traditional British grub, closing three of four of his Union Jack restaurants. Only the branch in London’s Covent Garden continues to operate.
In the UK, Oliver also owns 4 pizzerias, two delicatessens, two Fifteen restaurants, a Jamie Oliver’s Diner, a Barbecoa and the Jamie Oliver Cookery School.