TV chef Jamie Oliver is to axe six Jamie’s Italian restaurants over the next three months, after admitting that Brexit cost pressures and tough trading had struck certain sites to the point they are no longer viable.
Restaurants in Aberdeen, Exeter, Cheltenham, Richmond, Tunbridge Wells and Ludgate Hill are all scheduled to close in the first quarter, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group confirmed.
Bosses at the firm, which operates 42 sites, revealed kitchens needed to be serving an average of 3,000 covers every week for its restaurants to be sustainable.
More than 120 staff will be affected by the closures, although the chain has vowed to place those impacted in other parts of its portfolio.
Chief executive Simon Blagden stated: “As every restaurant owner knows, this is a tough market and, post-Brexit, the pressures and unknowns have made it even harder. While our overall business is in very good shape – we finished last year with like-for-like sales growth and an increase in covers – 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.”
The fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum has led to the cost of ingredients increasing, with the company sourcing heavily from Italy.
Mr Blagden added that the closures are in no way a reflection on the dedication and commitment of the company’s staff and said his first priority is to try and secure those affected alternative jobs within other Jamie’s Italian restaurants.
“Where this isn’t possible, we’ll be working with them to find alternative employment,” he revealed. “Jamie’s Italian has become a much loved presence on the UK high street and we have our teams to thank for that. These closures represent less than 5% of total turnover and impact less than 5% of our team members.”
The group added that it will now focus on the “core Jamie’s Italian estate” and on the expansion of the Barbecoa brand, which will see a further two openings in 2017.
The company also plans to roll out another 22 Jamie’s Italian restaurants and develop its Australian restaurants, which it recently bought out of receivership.