Celebrity Dining: ‘If I’d spent 13 years opening posh restaurants, they’d all be open today’: Jamie Oliver says Britain is ‘very good at nourishing the rich’ as he bemoans collapse of his restaurant empire
- Chef says his ambition was to offer high-welfare meat to the average diner
- Says high street rents crippled his empire as he closed all but three UK eateries
- Previously blamed Brexit and a rise in the minimum wage for his downfall
- But staff have accused him and other bosses of greed unchecked ambition
Published: 07:11 EDT, 11 August 2019 | Updated: 02:11 EDT, 12 August 2019
Jamie Oliver (pictured) says that if he had catered to posh people he’d still have a restaurant empire
Jamie Oliver says that his restaurants failed because they weren’t ‘posh’ enough and he tried too hard to bring decent food to average diners.
The celebrity chef opened his first eatery aged 27, aiming to bring sustainably sourced fish and high-welfare meats to customers at reasonable prices.
Now 44, he has watched his empire crumble after pumping £4million of his own cash into it in a desperate bid to save the business.
He told You magazine: ‘If I’d have spent 13 years opening posh restaurants, I could assure you they’d all be open today.
‘You know, Britain has always been very good at nourishing the rich. My obsession – just because I knew it was my audience – was mid-market dining. It was so badly represented.’
Oliver, who first found fame with The Naked Chef in 1999, says that high street business rates crippled his enterprise.
He has previously blamed Brexit, rental costs and a rise in minimum wage for the losses that led to its downfall.
The father of five, who lives in a £6million 16th century Essex mansion, has fronted 30 TV series since he rose to prominence.
Pictured: Staff outside Jamie’s Italian in Piccadilly back in May as the TV chef announced the downfall of his eateries
Author of 33 books, only J.K Rowling beats him to be the UK’s biggest-selling author of all time.
But he has revealed the blow to his brand was ‘physically, mentally and financially tough’.
Oliver described recent months as ‘the hardest of my life’ as 1,000 job losses hit his culinary empire.
Of the 25 restaurants he has in the UK, he announced the closure of 22 three months ago.
Chef Colin Roberts, 31, from Walsall, worked at Jamie’s Italian in the Bull Ring for 19 months and had other ideas about why Oliver’s restaurants failed.
In May he said: ‘I think there were too many restaurants opened at once and they couldn’t support themselves. I’ve been on the phone looking for work since I found out.’
Pictured: The notice of closure at Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, central London, as Oliver confirmed the collapse in May
Manager Josh Singh, 24, added: ‘They opened restaurants all over the place and in places where you wouldn’t expect celebrity restaurants to be like villages and very small towns.’
Oliver says he never took a salary from his eateries, but another member of staff, who did not want to be named, slammed him and his management as ‘greedy’.
‘They believed their own hype and thought they’d make billions without investing in the business.
‘It was getting too commercial and I felt under pressure to get customers seated and ordered and then out too quickly.
‘On busy nights it felt like a conveyor belt. Why pay £100 plus for a meal when you feel under pressure to eat it quickly? You might as we