“If Jamie can mirror this early Oxford form,” wrote the Guardian’s eating place critic Matthew Norman in 2008, “he’s going to quickly be driving a prize herd of recession-proof cash cows across the land.”
Norman was reviewing the primary department of what would emerge as a rustic-huge franchise, designed, in Jamie Oliver’s own phrases, “with the purpose of undoubtedly disrupting mid-marketplace eating inside the high road in the UK, with top-notch price and lots higher quality elements, satisfactory in elegance animal welfare requirements and an super team”.
Fast forward a decade, and this becomes the Sunday Times’ Marina O’Loughlin’s verdict on the “tagliatelle with cakes” on the Jamie’s in Westfield Stratford.
“Appalling, a honking, salty swamp of a sauce, brown and dusty with nutmeg. Tiny chunks, no longer shavings, of tasteless black truffle lurk round, like mouse poos in the soup.”
A mere eight months after that damning review, the celebrity chef’s eponymous chain, along with manufacturers Barbecoa and Fifteen, has gone into administration, placing 1,000 jobs in peril.
In an email to a group of workers on Tuesday morning, Mr. Oliver blamed “the nicely-publicized struggles of the informal eating sector and decline of the UK high road, along with soaring enterprise prices,” for the company’s fall apart.
Once visible as competition to Jamie’s, Italian chain Strada is down to simply three branches, while Carluccio’s has been compelled to shut approximately a 3rd of its restaurants, after losing tens of hundreds of thousands of kilos.
Burger logo Byron, French cuisine chain Cafe Rouge, and pizza stores Zizzi and Prezzo are not faring a great deal better.
But a group of workers at Jamie’s was nevertheless hopeful that a turnaround turned into at the horizon.
“We knew it wasn’t doing as well as we’d want it to be,” says Lucy, who labored on the Glasgow branch for more than three years.
Staff, she says, were caused accept as true with that a refit changed into across the nook, and that taps providing Brewdog beer could soon be set up.
Instead, they got a simple e-mail.
“My partner turned into intended to be on shift this morning,” says Lucy, who requested for her actual name now not to be used.
“He changed into informed on the closing minute not to come in because the locks have been being modified.
“We were then invited to sign up for a convention call and instructed we had all been made redundant, effective right now.”
Lucy and her accomplice, who labored at Jamie’s for five years, say they experience there was a lack of transparency at the company.
“I want they hadn’t said to us that it turned into nice, while it obviously wasn’t,” she says.
But the 27-year-old is in no question as to what brought about the chain’s demise.
“Firstly, the restaurants are ways too big,” she explains. Due to pared-down staffing numbers, on busy evenings she might be ready on as many as 11 tables straight away, even as managers and cooks also felt overburdened.
Then there has been the tie-ins with voucher schemes, including Groupon, which attracted fickle bargain hunters, and “did not inspire loyalty or normal customers”.
Tourists and people who passed off to be passing with the aid of became the key purchasers says Lucy, with “only a few human beings coming in because of the exhilaration of being at a Jamie’s Italian”.
Despite the team’s hard work, individuals who took the time to check neighborhood rankings on their smartphones typically stayed away too.
“Unfortunately, because of the fact that it’s far pretty luxurious, we might now not be at the top on TripAdvisor,” says Lucy.