So, yet another business in trouble thanks to this foul recession caused by Brexit. Or that’s what chief executive of Jamie’s Italian, Simon Blagden, wants us to think, anyway. Announcing the closure of six restaurants he said:
‘As every restaurant owner knows, this is a tough market and, post-Brexit, the pressures and unknowns have made it even harder’
Well, not as every restaurant-owner knows, no. According to the ONS’ figures, published at the end of November, its economic index for hotels and restaurants was up 1.1 per cent in the third quarter – following the vote for Brexit. The latest Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), published yesterday, shows accelerating growth in services –the index climbing to 56.2 in November.
There is an alternative explanation for the closure of Jamie’s restaurants, of course: they just aren’t good enough for the prices they are charging. I’ve never eaten at Jamie’s as it happens, but I know Britain abounds with chain Italian restaurants, and not all of them charge £12 for the cheapest pizza and £5 for a small glass of house wine. Anyone fooled into thinking Brexit is to blame should go to Jamies’ Facebook page. I presume the comments are unedited – if they have been edited the situation is even worse. Ratnesh is complaining about ‘extremely poor’ service in St Albans, where the food order was mixed up and the food served ‘lukewarm’. Clare Dovey-Wilson says she has had three poor meals at Jamies’ in a row – in the latest of which one of her children’s main courses was served half an hour before the rest. Emma Jane went to Jamies’ in Leeds to celebrate her wedding anniversary, and came away complaining of a ‘warm at best’ lamb risotto and of paying £10.95 for a seafood fritter starter which consisted of four muscles and a small piece of fish and squid.
And so it goes on. Jamie Oliver might have many TV fans but there is a limit to how much people will pay, and how much they will put up with poor service, just for a TV chef’s brand name. How much easier it is to blame Brexit than to face up to the inadequacies of your business.