Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group plans to open in excess of 100 further restaurants internationally in the next four years, despite news that the franchisee for its Jamie’s Italian brand in Australia and New Zealand had gone into receivership, MCA has learnt.
The Keystone Group, which runs six restaurants under Jamie Oliver’s brand as well as a number of bars and diners across New South Wales, will continue to trade pending a sale of the venues.
A spokesman for Oliver told MCA: “The news regarding Keystone is in no way a reflection on the performance or success of the Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the region which are all trading really well and are in fact among the best performing in the world.
“As Keystone has made clear, the restaurants will continue to operate as usual and their management are working closely with the receivers during this process to ensure minimal disruption to the business.”
Ferrier Hodgson, the receiver, said that the move by the group’s lenders had been precipitated by “an inability to reach agreement with the board on key aspects of the group’s financial structure”.
The company, founded in 2000, took over the Jamie’s Italian franchise as part of its acquisition of the Pacific Restaurant Group two years ago. It has five Jamie’s Italians in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth, plus a Jamie’s Italian Trattoria in Parramatta. Keystone had announced plans to open a Jamie’s Italian in Wellington, New Zealand, but it emerged earlier this month that it had walked away from the proposed site.
The Jamie’s Italian franchise in Istanbul, which opened in 2013, also ran into financial difficulties at the beginning of last year and filed for bankruptcy protection, but it avoided closure and continues to trade.
In addition to its 44 UK sites, Jamie’s Italian has 26 restaurants in 14 countries. It is thought further international growth will include the group’s first foray into the US.
Earlier this year, Jamie’s Italian appointed Jonathan Knight, former chief executive of Al Khayyat Investments (AKI) Retail Division in Dubai, as its new international managing director, as its looks to accelerate its global presence.
Knight and the family-owned AKI have helped the likes of Supergroup, Holland & Barrett and most recently Fortnum & Mason enter the Middle East. Previous to that, he was a franchisor at Marks & Spencer (M&S) for a number of years.
The company recently add second sites in Brazil and Canada, plus made its debut in Hungary, Cyprus and South Africa.
Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group’s chief executive Simon Blagden told MCA: “International growth is the key focus for the group over the next few years and Jon’s appointment having been both a franchisee and franchisor should prove invaluable.
“We have a number of new sites in the pipeline for this year, including launching in South Africa and opening further sites in the Far East. For Jamie’s Italian we will be looking at 12-14 openings internationally over the next 12 months or so.
“The key challenge overseas is finding partners that care about the business as much as we do. We are only at the start of the process internationally, with just 20 restaurants, the aspiration is to have huge numbers.”