The story has been well reported this week and most readers would be aware that Jamie Oliver’s UK restaurants have gone into administration with redundancies to occur immediately. Despite closing 12 of its 37 sites in Britain last year, and Jamie personally investing $24 million (AUD), a further 22 of the restaurants will now close, with over 1000 staff redundancies. Five branches of the Australian arm of Jamie’s Italian were sold off and another put into administration in 2016. The remaining overseas branches of Jamie’s Italian, Jamie’s Pizzeria and Jamie’s Deli, are not affected, nor is Fifteen Cornwall, a training restaurant for disadvantaged young people that operates as a franchise.
Oliver said Jamie’s Italian was launched in 2008 “with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining” with higher quality ingredients, animal welfare standards, better service and good value.
So what went wrong?
Last year Oliver himself admitted he “honestly (didn’t) know” why it was failing but speculated a “perfect storm” of “rents, rates, the high street declining, food costs, Brexit, (and) increase in the minimum wage” was to blame.
However, his restaurants are not the only ones to be suffering significant declines and facing closures suggesting there is more involved than just escalating costs.
Debates on what else has changed includes:
Experienced based dining?
Seeking unique experiences — and something to brag about on social media — diners are increasingly shunning cut-and-paste eateries for high-end restaurants that offer a bespoke experience.
Or at the other end of the spectrum, pop-up and food hall-style venues that offer good value, and variety and are seen as more authentic
Failed to evolve his offering?
To be successful in food you have to be constantly evolving the menus and the drinks choice, as well as the way you engage with customers. Faced with higher rent, rising food prices and increased competition, restaurants need a point of difference, so smaller brands who can adapt quickly are gaining ground.
Not living your brand?
Building his brand on his campaign for fresh food and organic produce, Jamie’s Italian in Sydney earned negative press after a diner saw a chef using frozen gnocchi from a packet.
Jamie Oliver’s “everyday man” identity and the up-market and expensive meals didn’t match, confusing the market and making his venues a one-off occasion experience rather than the mid-market venue he was aiming for.