Recession-proof? How Jamie Oliver's restaurants are dealing with the downturn

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

In a special audio report recorded at The Restaurant Show, Jacques Dejardin, head of operations at Jamie Oliver, reveals how the group is looking to retail, takeaway and collection, event catering and possibly all-day dining to protect its restaurants from the continuing downturn.

It is official - the UK is no longer in recession. But with warnings of a future triple-dip recession flying around and recent research suggesting continued hospitality industry pessimism, it is clear the UK's restaurants are not yet out of the woods.

Diversification 

In fact, accountancy firm RSM Tenon's report even claimed almost half of hospitality and leisure companies in the UK will not reach profit targets this quarter.

It is no surprise then that many restaurateurs are looking at ways they can continue to counter the downturn and adapt their businesses to cope with the recessionary climate. A number of operators have experimented diversifying in as many ways as they can from all-day dining​ to takeaway.

At The Restaurant Show at the beginning of the month,​ a number of operators gathered at the BigHospitality-sponsored Business Bootcamp to chat about this very issue in a panel discussion hosted by Restaurant magazine editor Will Drew.

Jacques Dejardin, head of operations at Jamie Oliver, was on the panel and BigHospitality collected his thoughts on how the group's restaurants have handled diversification in the past and what things they are considering that fellow restaurant operators might be able to learn from or adopt themselves.

Italian slowdown

Referring to the future of the group as a whole, Dejardin revealed focus would now be switching away from rapid growth, at least for the popular Jamie's Italian concept.

"With Barbecoa, we have got a strong business that has built a good reputation in the City; we are just looking at what the best next move for that business is. We can do diversification or we can be aggressive about further units.

"Jamie's Italian is slowing down its growth, we have got a lot of restaurants and now it is really focusing on making them all absolutely world class.

"On Fifteen, Jamie is adamant he wants another couple but the 18 apprentices we have just taken on are enough work for now," he added.

Jamie Oliver

Dejardin revealed the success of the first Jamie's Italian deli in Bath​ was leading the group to consider extending the offer and adopting it in other restaurants.

"We are already exploring what that would mean within restaurants - what it would mean for the business and how it would work," he explained.

Possibly takeaway, and certainly collection, are also under consideration.

"In Barbecoa we launched into street food to make sure that we are staying close to trends at that level. That has pushed a business that is expensive to really be smart and look at other areas that we can exploit. Our street food carts trade incredibly well.

"I also have to protect a business that has lots of signature items - our steaks for instance are aged for up to 11 or 12 weeks - so what we said is we would look at pulled pork instead. We can take a section of what we do without diluting the restaurant's offer. You can call us in the morning - now it is collection only," he added.

Although Dejardin revealed Jamie is not keen on corporate dining,​ he explained parties and events were also being considered to add extra income streams to the business although breakfast and all-day dining might not be on the horizon yet as it doesn't fit with the group's brands.

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2 comments

Jamie's 'experience' and group brands

Posted by Dominic,

I've never been tempted. The one they opened in St Martin's Lane - an Italian I believe - was not attractive price-wise, or value for money.

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Jamie's Italian

Posted by Ian Freeman,

The best and most apposite comment I ever heard about this chain was from a friend who went - just the once - to a Jamie's Italian. He called it 'a restaurant for people who don't go to restaurants'.

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