All Over for Oliver?

by Angelika Muzyka

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Jamie’s Italian closures – what went wrong and what can we learn?

Food and drink PR blog post image for an article discussing Jamie Italian's closures

THE news of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group going into administration came as a shock to some, but was predictable news to others. Nevertheless, it was a sorry end to a company that once offered a fresh and much-loved take on casual dining.

The ever-changing market and consumer expectations in the food and drink industry make it an incredibly tough one to compete in and keep up with as a brand. Trends seem to be coming as fast as they’re going and customers are on a constant lookout for new cuisines, dishes and ingredients to get excited about.

So, what went wrong?


The Brand

When Jamie’s Italian launched in 2008, Jamie’s persona alone was enough to create an immense hype around the restaurants. Queues stretched beyond the establishment’s doors and visitors were more than happy to wait just to be able to say that they’ve wined and dined at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.

But a brand fully resting on its founder’s image and reputation is not a suitable long-term strategy. Quickly expanding across the UK and soon beyond its borders, Jamie’s Italian started to lack that true, unique identity that was needed to make it stand out against its competitors who were constantly growing in numbers.

When you think of other chains like Nando’s or Wagamama, there’s always that one special characteristic that is ingrained and inseparable from the brand like the famous hot peri-peri sauces or steaming ramen. With the draw of Jamie’s name weakening over the years, Jamie’s Italian simply didn’t have a strong enough identity and spark to help it stay relevant in the crowded market.


The Market

Food and drink PR for Tigerlily - Mediterranean sharing platter

There was no doubt about Jamie’s dedication to “positively disrupt mid-market dining” with higher quality ingredients, passionate staff, quality service and good value for money when launching his first restaurant. But the intense focus on quick expansion and introducing Jamie’s Italian to international markets meant that the brand lost sight of the rapid changes happening within the food and drink sector all around.

Fast-casual dining has begun to wilt away, making space for more intimate, artisan experiences. The rise of platforms such as JustEat and Deliveroo presents consumers with a broader range of choice and quality for eating at home, too. Heightened accessibility means that people have the convenience to enjoy their favourite foods on their own terms. And if they aren’t devouring their favourites at home, they’re seeking something with an edge. It’s not just about food anymore but about a memorable experience – immersing yourself in the restaurant’s setting and atmosphere and turning dining into a ritual. Simply put, the market has changed and Jamie’s Italian didn’t respond quickly enough.


Competition

In March 2018, The CEO of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Jon Knight, admitted that the company had not taken notice of competition. Focusing on expansion and settling in new towns and cities it failed to see when its rivals were forming and developing. He promised that the company would take action in innovation, reinvestment and remodelling. But it was just a little too late.

The rise in consumers seeking authentic experiences means that competition is fierce when it comes to international cuisines. People take a liking to establishments that can provide a genuine, flavoursome, cultural experience – and ones that can do that with style too. Unfortunately for large chains, unless they have been carefully crafted and monitored, and momentum has been kept high with the appropriate communications activity, this isn’t something that’s easy to achieve. From design to stellar service, consumers simply expect more than just tasty food. It’s seems that the “Italian” in Jamie’s Italian just wasn’t enough for customers to keep it front of mind when choosing a Mediterranean restaurant.


Hotel PR photograph of cocktail masterclass in Tigerlily

Any new restaurant has the potential to be met with an incredible buzz, but no one is truly immune to market shifts. Gauging and matching your clients’ expectations is a must – whether it’s through being adaptable to new tastes or establishing a solid, instantly recognisable brand image and reputation that feels authentic.

Meeting challenges and changing tastes in the food and drink industry can be made easier with the right PR agency on your side. A good team will ensure that your brand is constantly engaged with your target demographic and that your identity and key messages are communicated effectively.

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Angie Muzyka is a member of the expert PR team at Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Angelika Muzyka

Senior Account Executive Angie Muzyka is part of the multi-award-winning PR team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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