Celebrity chef Jamie “Naked Chef” Oliver is watching his UK restaurant empire collapse, with 25 of his locations entering insolvency.
The dining locations impacted include 23 UK-based Jamie’s Italian restaurants, two London eateries called Fifteen and Barbecoa, and the Jamie’s diner location in the Gatwick airport. Over 1,000 jobs are expected to be lost.
The news comes a year after the group closed 12 restaurants in 2018 and reported an 11% dip in sales. Facing bankruptcy, the restaurants managed to hang on another year thanks to a $16.5 million injection of funds from Oliver himself.
The restaurant group was unable to find a buyer for the chain in an increasingly competitive mid-tier dining market.
The famed TV chef attempted for several years to reinvigorate his restaurant business, but has continued to fall short. Competition has been tough, the market intense, and business costs simply continued to rise.
And though Oliver built himself a rather large television following, it simply wasn’t enough to keep his businesses afloat.
The 44-year-old restaurateur said in a statement that he was both “devastated” and “deeply saddened” by the outcome. He also thanked his staff and suppliers who “put their heart and souls into this business for over a decade.”
The casual dining business, in general, has been suffering in both the US and UK in recent years. Many major chains, including Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s in the US, have been forced into restructuring. In the UK, chains like Carluccio’ and Byron Hamburgers have had to do the same.
The closing spree is one of many business hardships Oliver has suffered in recent years: In 2015, the Food Network star closed his Recipease chain of cooking schools and delis, and in 2017 his Jamie Magazine ceased publication after a 10-year run.
However, all is not lost of Oliver’s legacy—the Jamie’s Restaurant name will live on in the form of its 20+ overseas franchisee restaurants which will not be affected by the insolvency. His cookbook and TV show ventures also continue to thrive.
Additionally, he has worked to bring healthier food options to school cafeterias and partnered with Shell to supply deli foods to their British service stations.