Jamie Oliver says the struggles that have gripped the restaurant industry during the past 18 months could turn out to be a “defining” moment for the industry – and lead to a scenario where operators might need to treat their businesses more like gig venues or museums in future.
Mr Oliver’s own business has famously been one of the hardest hit during the recent downturn, forcing him to close a third of its Jamie’s Italian outlets and sell his Barbecoa restaurants as the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group slumped to a £10m loss in its last financial year.
Mr Oliver has not spoken publicly in detail about the challenges that faced his empire earlier this year, but in an interview with the Manchester Evening News this week to promote his new Channel 4 cookery series Jamie Cooks Italy, he revealed his thoughts on the industry and predicted that operators may have to review their traditional business models in future.
“The world’s changed in the restaurant industry in the last year and a half,” Mr Oliver told the paper. “It’s like any other business on the high street, it’s just really, really tough. We’re in a changed time and obviously there’s lots of pressures even for good businesses, so how can we bring four walls to life more? How can we curate a space? Is it a restaurant or should we think of it more like a gig venue or a museum?”
Mr Oliver admitted that it felt like the industry was undergoing a period of significant change, but suggested it was impossible to tell how it would all play out.
“I think these moments define industries,” he said. “We don’t know what’s around the corner, we’re kind of trying to work it out.”