‘People won’t pay to go to Jamie’s restaurants for hard chairs and cheap plonk’

Whenever a business on the high street goes bust, my heart sinks because it’s another nail in the coffin for local shopping areas.

The latest casualty is the food chain belonging to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, which has announced it’s closing all but three restaurants and making 1,000 people redundant.

In his email to staff, Jamie wrote: “I’m absolutely devastated that we have had no choice but to put our much-loved UK restaurants into administration, which means the fate of Jamie’s Italian UK, Fifteen London and Barbecoa is now in the hands of an administrator, who will be responsible for the operations of these restaurants and their future.”

His reasons for the failure of his empire were nothing new. He blamed the struggles of the casual dining sector, soaring business rates and the decline of the high street.

I think there are other more important contributing factors that have led customers to say arrivederci to Jamie’s Italian casual dining experience and that is Oliver’s lack of understanding that the new “going out” is “staying in.”

Customers and the times they live in adapt and evolve – and companies need to do the same to survive.

If you ask me, what killed Jamie’s business was his failure to compete with factors such as our love of box sets and an increasing desire to order restaurant food to eat in the comfort of our own homes.

I can’t remember the last time my hubby and I decided to eat out. There was a time when we’d go out at least twice a week with the kids because it was supposed to be a treat and I got a break from cooking.

But I think the toll of sitting in a crowded, noisy restaurant that serves mediocre food at sky-high prices has, over time, changed our attitudes and habits.

I believe the introduction of binge-watching box sets was definitely a turning point for us. Hubby and I have in recent years found much joy – after a long, hard working week – in snuggling up on the sofa and checking in with our favourite TV characters, whether it’s the Queen from The Crown or Jon Snow from Game of Thrones.

I can’t tell you the excitement that starts on Friday afternoon, knowing that in the evening all I’m going to do is get my PJs on and sit in front of the screen. No childminding fees, no annoying loud people sitting at the table next to you and no effort required – bliss.

And when it comes to what to eat we, like so many others, are turning to delivery services that bring your favourite restaurant food to your home.

So why on earth would anyone want to go out to Jamie’s restaurants, sit on hard chairs and drink over-priced cheap plonk?

Added to that, many people like us are knocking down walls to create a more open-plan, larger living space, where we can entertain our friends in comfort.

If I were a budding entrepreneurial chef, I’d take note of these trends and offer fine dining in the comfort of people’s homes.

Take it from this former Apprentice, Jamie, the high street might be dead, but our homes are alive and kicking.

I’d welcome my own chef to come and cook for me… so I can dine in style while bingeing on a box set.

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