1492819938130 - Jamie Oliver’s NZ plans uncertain as he narrowly avoids Australian collapse

Jamie Oliver’s NZ plans uncertain as he narrowly avoids Australian collapse

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s plan to salvage his Australian restaurant chain has narrowly avoided collapse, while his plans to open a New Zealand eatery remain shrouded in mystery.

The world-renowned cook intended to open his first Kiwi restaurant in Wellington last year, but plans were abandoned after the Australian operator of Jamie’s Italian restaurants went into receivership.

However, in November, Oliver moved to buy back the business, which included six restaurants, from then-owners Keystone Hospitality Group to save the franchise. He planned to have the transaction wrapped up by April 11.

But Oliver’s plans to bring his eponymous restaurants back in-house under his British parent group hit a snag when the sale was not finalised by the deadline.

* Jamie Oliver shuts six Jamie Italian restaurants in UK
* Jamie Oliver promises a New Zealand restaurant is on the horizon
* Jamie Oliver ditches plan to open restaurant in Wellington
* Jamie Oliver’s Italian operator in receivership, leaving unpaid debts in Wellington
* Wellington Jamie Oliver restaurant behind schedule, Auckland on back burner

However, an urgent court hearing in New South Wales concluded with administrators and receivers being granted extra time to complete the takeover from the Keystone Group, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The NSW Supreme Court heard that if an extension of time was not granted, the Jamie’s companies – which are insolvent – would go into liquidation, with the loss of more than 300 jobs.

At the time, Oliver told Stuff: “We’re trying to buy it [the Jamie’s Italian franchise] back ourselves, so it’s run by myself, which is our intention. 

“With that in mind, one of the first priorities will be New Zealand again because we really want to be there. I love Wellington; it’s one of my favourite places. 

“It will happen, whether someone else buys it – which is not my preferred choice – or whether we get it, which I should find out in the next two weeks. 

“New Zealand will be very much back on the radar and we’re excited to make it happen.”

In January, Oliver decided to close five Jamie’s Italian restaurants in England and one in Scotland by the end of the first quarter of this year.

At the time, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group chief executive Simon Blagden​ told The Guardian: “As every restaurant owner knows, this is a tough market and post-Brexit the pressures and unknowns have made it even harder.”

A combination of high costs for ingredients, staff training and lower foot traffic had forced the restaurant closures, Blagden said.

The six restaurants accounted for less than 5 per cent of the restaurant chain’s total turnover, and overall the chain continued to perform well at home and abroad, he said.

“In the UK, we will be focusing on our core Jamie’s Italian estate and on the expansion of the Barbecoa brand, which will see two new openings in 2017.

“Internationally, we plan to launch another 22 Jamie’s Italian restaurants with our current partners and are also looking forward to focusing on running and developing further our newly acquired Australian restaurants.”

Oliver currently has 42 Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the UK and more than 36 abroad run under his name.