Jamie Oliver is preparing to open hundreds of restaurants in staff canteens across the country to ride out a slowdown on the High Street.
Through a ten-year deal with catering firm Aramark, Oliver, 42, will open sites under his restaurant group, which includes the Jamie’s Italian, Jamie’s Diner and Jamie’s Deli brands. It hopes the number of restaurants will reach double digits by next year.
Aramark works across the business, education, healthcare, manufacturing and defence sectors.
Oliver will open sites under his restaurant group
Oliver said: ‘As a company we’re really committed to changing things in food in Britain and hopefully therefore the world.
‘If we’re ever to have a chance to achieve this I have to change, I have to evolve, I have to grow up and this relationship is a very important part of that.’ The move comes at a difficult time for the industry and Oliver’s own business ventures.
Like other mid-market chains he has been hit by a slowdown in dining out. Companies including Byron, Prezzo, and Strada have been forced to shut hundreds of sites in recent months.
Earlier this year the celebrity chef’s high-end steak restaurant Barbecoa was plunged into administration, leading to the loss of 80 jobs. He is also closing 12 of his 37 Jamie’s Italian branches after it lost £9.9million last year on sales of around £112million.
But there is a push from many companies to improve the catering facilities for their staff, particularly with many encouraging their employees to work longer hours. Oliver, who is a campaigner for healthier eating, has not had total success with his attempts to bring his food into canteens. He famously tried to improve school menus by taking over dinners there.
However, despite declaring war on the turkey twizzler, he admitted failure in 2015, saying he felt many people thought healthy eating was just a fad for the middle-classes.
The deal could open a new horizon for Oliver’s businesses and takes them away from the High Street. It could also put pressures on prices and ingredients as staff often only want to spend limited amounts in employee canteens.
Aramark is hoping the tie-up will allow it to use the Jamie Oliver name to expand in northern Europe. Jon Knight, chief executive of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, told The Caterer magazine that the deal was an opportunity to get a foothold in the sector outside the High Street.
‘We wanted to look to diversify away from the High Street, not that it’s not great, but there’s an audience out there that might not come to the High Street,’ he said. ‘Their tastes may have changed, it gives us that opportunity to take this to a new audience.’