Jamie Oliver is to close six of his eponymous Italian restaurants up and down the country, blaming the impact of Brexit and tough trading conditions.
Some 120 staff at the six eateries – in Ludgate Hill, in London, Richmond, Aberdeen, Cheltenham, Exeter and Tunbridge Wells, Kent – will be affected, it has been confirmed.
They will close during the first quarter of this year and efforts will be made to accommodate staff affected into new roles within the Jamie Oliver stable.
“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.
He said the increased cost of buying quality ingredients and produce from Italy – thanks to the fall in sterling – coupled with training costs and a fall in the number of diners had forced the group to make the call.
“These closures are in no way a reflection on the dedication and commitment of our staff and my first priority is to try and secure those affected alternative jobs within other Jamie’s Italian restaurants,” said Mr Blagden.
“Where this isn’t possible, we’ll be working with them to find alternative employment. 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.”
Mr Blagden said restaurants in the celebrity chef’s empire needed to serve an average of 3,000 covers a week to be sustainable.
Oliver has 42 Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the UK and another 36 run abroad under his name. While six will be closing, the group said Oliver intended to open another 22 abroad and would be looking to expand his Barbecoa branded eateries with two openings this year.
Last year, Oliver said he would buy back the Jamie’s Italian restaurants business in Australia after Keystone Group, which ran the operation, went into receivership and put the franchise up for sale.
The celebrity chef and food campaigner has a net worth of £323m, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List but has been hit with a series of blows of late. The last of his delicatessens closed in 2015 and only one of his four Union Jack restaurants survives.
He has also been struggling to sell his Primrose Hill property – knocking £2m off the asking price.