How Jamie Oliver's restaurant empire Jamie's Italian Union Jacks and Barbecoa ...

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Pictured: Jamie Oliver on The Naked Chef during its second series in 2000

Pictured: Jamie Oliver on The Naked Chef during its second series in 2000 

Jamie Oliver's food empire today came crashing down around him as the celebrity chef announced his restaurant brand had spiralled into administration.

Food critics and industry experts claim the overpriced, mid-range meals on offer at his three High Street restaurants were a recipe for disaster. 

While Oliver's recipe books flew off the shelves in their millions and his TV shows continued to rake in viewers, his own food outlets failed to meet the same standards. 

Restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin said she would have to be 'paid' to go back to Jamie's Italian in London's Westfield.

Market analyst Fiona Cincotta claimed the menu was 'too expensive for mid-range dining and not high-end enough to compete at the more expensive end of the market'. 

Oliver, who first broke the mainstream as the cheeky chappy from Essex on his first TV show The Naked chef at 23, blamed Brexit for the collapse. 

But his restaurants, which also include Union Jacks and Barbecoa, have teetered on the edge of administration for more than a year with millions of pounds in debt.  

Experts claim the Jamie brand was being used as an excused to hike up prices, without any increases in food quality.  

Poor online reviews are also believed to have contributed to the worsening reputation of Jamie's Italian as food delivery apps such as Uber Eats have conquered the market, leaving the chef unable to save his struggling brand.

TripAdvisor reviewers recently branded his Covent Garden branch as 'shocking', 'nothing special' and pricey in recent months. 

Oliver is pictured outside Jamie's Italian, which closed 22 of its shops without notice today

Oliver is pictured outside Jamie's Italian, which closed 22 of its shops without notice today 

His restaurants now owe £71.5million with 1,000 workers set to lose their jobs. 

Josh Singh, 24, who works at Jamie's Italian at the Bullring in Birmingham said: 'In the early years it was a destination restaurant but I think over time the message got lost. The company started giving things away and turned into your average high street restaurant instead of a celebrity restaurant.

'They opened restaurants all over the place and in places where you wouldn't expect celebrity restaurants to be like villages and very small towns.' 

An anonymous member of staff added: 'It was getting too commercial and I felt under pressure to get customers seated and ordered and then out too quickly.

'On busy nights it felt like a conveyor belt. Why pay £100 plus for a meal when you feel under pressure to eat it quickly? You might as well go to McDonalds.'

Gareth Ogden, from chartered accountants Haysmacintyre, said: 'Sky high rents, particularly at its premium sites, combined with soaring business rates have been at the heart of Jamie Oliver's recent woes. 

Fifteen Barbecoa restaurants have also closed as Jamie Oliver's brand went into administration today

Fifteen Barbecoa restaurants have also closed as Jamie Oliver's brand went into administration today 

'The rescue plan put in place in 2017 appears to have now crashed on the rocks of over-supply in the casual dining market and consumer uncertainty. 

'In a sector awash with excess supply, particularly in the Italian market, maintaining quality, reliability and point of difference is imperative for survival. 

'Jamie's Italian, the group's largest brand, is perhaps guilty of over-expansion and has lost the passion and zeal of its founder which was its USP when originally brought to market.' 

Jamie's Italian is far from the only victim of the High Street bloodbath, with dozens of food brands admitting defeat in the last two years.

Prezzo, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Patisserie Valerie are among those who have struggled to survive.     

Simon Mydlowski, an expert in the hospitality industry, said Jamie's failed to keep up with trends in the sector. 

This sign appeared in the window of the Jamie's Italian in Victoria, central London this morning

This sign appeared in the window of the Jamie's Italian in Victoria, central London this morning

Senior market analyst Fiona Cincotta from Cityindex, added: 'The restaurant chain, which piggybacked on the fame of Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, has been struggling for years to keep the business model going in which the pasta dishes - most of Jamie's Italian offering - were too expensive for mid-range dinning and not high end enough to compete in the more expensive end of the market. 

'Higher rent, rising food prices, uncertainty over Brexit and competition from smaller, more nimble outfits, have been eroding the company's earnings over the last few

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