The Times reported this weekend that since Paul Hunt was appointed chief executive of Jamie Oliver Ltd in 2014, cost-cutting measures have left staff “desperate” to leave, and morale at an all-time low.
Hunt, who is married to Oliver’s sister Anna-Marie, is also a director of Jamie’s Italian.
A senior figure who has since left the business told the paper Hunt knows “virtually nothing about restaurants”.
“He’s running the business in to the ground and the day he resigns the staff should have a big party,” they said.
“Everyone at the business adores Jamie and they are very sad about what has happened, but morale is at rock bottom.”
In a statement posted online Oliver said the claims were “nasty” and “untrue”.
“First let me say that the story is nonsense and I absolutely refute the picture they paint of Paul and my business. I’ve known Paul for years both as a loyal brother-in-law and loving father as well as a strong and capable CEO who I charged with re-shaping the business," said Oliver.
“He has radically transformed our business for the better it’s now more successful, vibrant and creative than ever and now we able to focus on doing the same in our UK restaurant business. I’m incredibly grateful for what’s been achieved in a fairly short time.”
Jamie’s Italian is to close 12 of its 37 sites in 2018 after reporting a £9.9m loss for the last financial year.
The chef’s Barbecoa barbecue and grill restaurant in Piccadilly also shut in February just a year after opening.
Former staff told The Times problems began in 2014 when Jamie's Italian removed around 15 key staff, including general managers at major restaurant sites.
Jon Knight, the CEO of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, revealed last month that the restaurant division will be moving its head offices to become more integrated with the chef’s wider business, which is overseen by Hunt.