Jamie Oliver is one of the UK’s most recognisable celebrity chefs, known for his exuberant personality and punchy catchphrases.

His meteoric rise to fame began in the late 1990s when he was plucked from obscurity by television producers while working as a junior chef at the River Cafe  in London.

More than 20 years on, the father-of-five, who used to have the catchphrase “pukka”, is reported to have netted more than £240 million from a plethora of TV shows and book deals, as well as a string of restaurants around the world.

But while he remains in high demand, his restaurants have struggled in recent years and his Jamie’s Italian chain yesterday collapsed into administration.

About 1,000 workers are now out of a job, including staff at the chain’s Glasgow and Edinburgh restaurants. Oliver, who had ploughed almost £13m of his own money into the business in recent years in an attempt to save it, told of his disappointment as it was confirmed administrators had been called in.

“I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all the staff and our suppliers who have put their hearts and souls into this business for over a decade, “ he said. 

“I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected.

“I would also like to thank all the customers who have enjoyed and supported us over the last decade, it’s been a real pleasure serving you.

“We launched Jamie’s Italian in 2008 with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining in the UK high street, with great value and much higher quality ingredients, best in class animal welfare standards and an amazing team who shared my passion for great food and service. And we did exactly that.”

All but three of the chef’s 25 UK restaurants are to close, including 22 Jamie’s Italian outlets and his Fifteen and Barbecoa restaurants in London.

Three outlets at Gatwick Airport will remain open as administrators seek a buyer.

Reports suggested that staff were notified by email just 30 minutes before the company announced its decision.

Trade union Unite said the closure of the restaurants was “devastating” for staff.
Bryan Simpson, organiser for Unite Scotland, said: “The news will come as a huge blow to its workforce who have worked hard to make the company millions of pounds over the years. We will be working with our members across the company to ensure they get everything they are entitled to in terms of holidays, notice and redundancy pay, where appropriate.”

Unite national officer Louisa Bull added: “This is another dark day for the UK high street, following hard on the heels of the collapse of Patisserie Valerie early this year. 

“Restaurants are not being helped by the current economic uncertainty, although those businesses like Jamie Oliver’s that dashed for expansion in recent years seem particularly precarious. 

“As ever, it is the workers at the restaurant and in the supply chain who bear the heavy cost of boardroom decisions.”

The group had been seeking buyers in recent months after  Oliver decided to sell up amid heavy competition in the casual dining market that has already seen chains such as Carluccio’s, Byron Burger and Gourmet Burger Kitchen close outlets.

Sales at Jamie’s Italian dived by nearly 11% last year to £101m as it closed 12 restaurants and made about 600 staff redundant.

The chain was only saved from bankruptcy by a last-minute £13m injection of cash from Oliver, part of almost £17m of new funding provided to keep the restaurants afloat.

Accountancy firm Campbell Dallas said the chain had become a victim of over-supply in the market and high fixed costs.

Donald Boyd, a partner and leisure sector specialist with the accountants, said: “The administration of Jamie’s is a warning call to other restaurant operators to keep a very tight rein on costs and ensure they are not being left behind by the latest eating trends.  

Business owners must ensure they are constantly evolving their offering and ensure they have high margin products that attract customers, and they are able to cover their fixed costs.  

“The sector is probably ripe for restructuring, and Jamie’s should be a warning to all restaurateurs to review their business models.”

In 2015,  Oliver closed the last branch of Recipease, his chain of cookery shops, and his British themed Union Jacks restaurants also closed two years later.

The chef’s magazine, Jamie, also ceased publication in 2017 after almost 10 years.

However, Jamie Oliver Holdings, which covers his media interests, reported profits of £5.6m in 2017, as his TV persona continues to thrive.

The 43-year-old’s first show, The Naked Chef, made him an instant star and was followed by book deals and endorsements.

Since then, he has gone on to star in numerous series and one-off cookery shows, including Oliver’s Twist, Jamie’s Kitchen and Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.

He is also well-known for his campaigns on healthy eating and led a campaign for healthy food to be served in schools that included his now infamous fight to have turkey twizzlers taken off school menus.

He also took this fight to the US in his programme Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, but he was met with resistance. 

The chef was banned from filming at any Los Angeles public school and the show was cancelled two weeks before the final episode was aired.