Hospitality

Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group chief says company “rested on its laurels”

Emma Koehn /

Jamie Oliver

Source: AAP/Jamie Oliver

The chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group says the hospitality company has fallen on hard times because it didn’t innovate and instead “rested on its laurels” after early successes.

UK publication Big Hospitality reports that Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group chief executive Jon Knight gave an address at the UK’s Casual Dining show at the end of February, saying as a business, the company had “lost our way”.

Over the past two months the celebrity chef’s restaurant businesses has faced financial challenges, and the UK operations of its Jamie’s Italian chain became subject to a company voluntary arrangements amid claims it owed $125.9 million in debts to suppliers and staff. 

The restaurant group then looked to sell Oliver’s Barbecoa steak business and closed its flagship London store in February.

Speaking of the challenges last month, Knight said the current problems facing the company come down to the fact that it wasn’t quick enough to improve its operations once it had achieved its own early success.

“Other brands started doing what we were doing at a more affordable price. Suddenly they were the new thing, we didn’t invest in our estate or brand, so other newer, smarter and even smaller restaurants started to overtake us.”

Instead, he says, the businesses “rested on its laurels” and is now tasked with a big turnaround.

This could involve a franchising approach to restaurants, he said, as well as a review of its menu and salary offers, Big Hospitality reports.

“We didn’t innovate enough in the last decade, so we’re making up for it now,” Knight said.

The six Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Australia have not been affected by their UK counterpart’s company voluntary arrangement.

However, the chain has previously faced challenging conditions in its expansion into Australia. The brand was operated by Keystone Hospitality Group when it launched in Australian in 2011, but Jamie Oliver purchased the Australian operations back after Keystone collapsed in 2016. 

NOW READ: Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant chain has debts of $125.9 million, according to reports

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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