Jamie’s Italian: don’t blame Brexit for business failures

Pic via WalesOnline

Jamie Oliver’s announcement that he will close six branches of his “Jamie’s Italian” restaurants is no good news. It’s not positive for the workers: chefs, kitchen and waiting staff who will find themselves unemployed. It’s not positive for the costumers, either who will lose a chance to exercise their freedom of choice.

Nevertheless, hiding behind inflation and Brexit, as mr. Oliver did when he revealed his business decision, is quite unfair. It is a partisan way to justify a purely commercial choice. Simon Blagden, chief executive of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, said that “this is a tough market and post-Brexit the pressures and unknows have made it even harder”.

Hospitality is tough, indeed, still it’s difficult to believe that “post-Brexit” is the root of all evil in the business, considering that Article 50 has not been triggered yet. Has it really sense to talk about post-Brexit then?

The same “post-Brexit” framework and the same economical conditions did not prevent other similar businesses to thrive. As the Spectator reports, the ONS economic index for hospitality mark a +1,1% growth in the quarter following the Referendum. The Purchasing Manager’s Index rose to 56.2 in services in November.

In this environment Jamie’s Italian competitors seems to flourish. Pizza Express opened (“post-Brexit”) new restaurants in Belfast, Glasgow, Stockport, Nottingham and Glossop, aiming to double its number of eateries in Northern Ireland and creating hundreds of jobs. Gino d’Acampo inaugurated a new business in Leeds and is planning to open in Liverpool this year. Carluccio’s has launched its new outlets in Derby, Edinburgh and in York. ASK Italian opened in Newcastle and Bornemouth, while Zizzi’s will be feeding the citizens of Stockport and Belfast.

It must be mentioned as well that Jamie Oliver’s businesses were not so solid even pre-Brexit. In 2014 he closed four of his “Union Jack’s” blaming the “tough economic climate”, despite no referendum was planned yet. In May the same year his Barbecoa near St. Paul had to be shut down for 24 hours due to poor hygiene rating, following an inspection. The previous year another Barbecoa in Portsmouth was fined for the same reason and in 2012 the brazilian-style outlet in Edinburgh sparked outrage after a mice was filmed roaming in the dining area. Recipease, another restaurant under the Oliver’s brand, closed in Notting Hill on Christmas Eve 2014, after other two branches in Clapham and Brighton were shut down the previous year. Jamie Oliver Holdings lost £ 12,8 million in 2014, and the following year he was criticised for the tipping policy in Jamie’s Italian, considered to be unfair towards the waiting staff.

This sequence of facts shows that a “tough economic climate” is oppressing Jamie Oliver’s businesses way before the EU referendum was even planned. Brexit and inflation are not good alibis in the wake of previous closures and facing a rise of competition.