In an interview with the Financial Times, Oliver said Jamie’s Italian had “simply run out of cash”.
“We hadn’t expected it,” he told the FT. “That is just not normal, in any business. You have quarterly meetings. You do board meetings. People supposed to manage that stuff should manage that stuff.”
The chef told the paper he had to inject £7.5m from his own money in to the restaurants last autumn, followed by a further £5.2m over the next few months.
“I had two hours to put money in and save it or the whole thing would go to shit that day or the next day,” said Oliver.
In January Jamie’s Italian said it would be closing 12 of its 37 sites, with a loss of 600 jobs, in a bid to bring the business back in to the black. One of the chef’s two Barbecoa steak restaurants also shut in February after falling in to administration.
The funds out of Oliver’s own pocket were topped up by £37m of loans from HSBC and subsidies from other companies within the wider Jamie Oliver Group. This included his media and publishing empire, which had revenues of £30m in 2017.
The chef told the FT he “honestly [doesn’t] know” the cause of Jamie’s Italian’s downfall and lamented the decline of its “incredible” success story.
He said: “We disrupted massively. We changed the whole mid-market landscape. The culture that we built was phenomenal. We had it, and now it’s been taken away.”
Oliver also spoke of his desire to reinvigorate the Jamie’s Italian brand. New menus have been drawn up, with a reduction in higher-priced items.
“I’ve tried to prove that you can do decent, high-welfare ingredients at mid-market prices,” he said.
“With Jamie’s Italian, we kind of got halfway there and then it all ran away. But now I am a bit more confident. We’re beginning to see a little bit of light out of a very dark year.”