Jamie turns to trattorias as Union Jacks fails to fly

By Mark Wingett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Jamie oliver Jamie oliver restaurant Union jacks Restaurant Covent garden

Raising the white flag: Union Jacks fell flat
Raising the white flag: Union Jacks fell flat
“I still worry that it’s all going to come tumbling down. I still feel like I’m 17 and I’ve got it all to prove. I have to pinch myself when I sit down and think about everything that’s happened to me. But I don’t get complacent about it,” so answered Jamie Oliver last month when asked what his biggest fear was.

The latest round of proposals show that Oliver and his restaurant business team, led by Simon Blagden, are far from complacent, with both UK and international growth still very much on the agenda. Not that Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group isn’t prone to a mis-step, mind.

There will be no more Union Jacks, the flatbread format developed in partnership with US pizza guru Chris Bianco, which launched two years ago and grew to four sites.

Just two will survive - in London’s Covent Garden and Holborn – but out of this rare error the group has spotted a further opportunity based on its continued powerhouse brand, Jamie’s Italian.

The smaller, more informal Jamie’s Italian Trattoria, which will launch this month in Richmond, south-west London, will be targeted at market towns, and largely focus on pizza and pasta in a ‘home-from-home environment’. The existing Union Jacks in Chiswick, west London, is also set to be converted to the new format. The group sees the brand as having the potential to grow ton between 50 and 60 sites in the UK.

Jamie Oliver’s Diner

Food at Trattoria will typically cost £3 to £4 less per main dish than at its more established big brother, with the start-up costs of the smaller restaurants also significantly lower than Jamie’s Italian. Meanwhile, the group’s new ‘three-year pop-up’ experiment on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue – Jamie Oliver’s Diner – could prove to be a useful test-bed for a US-themed future chain.

World view: Jamie’s Italian will launch in Russia shortly

Blagden also believes there is the potential to grow the core brand to 45 sites from its existing 31 in the UK, resulting in the opportunity for a 100-strong estate, which should further pique the interest of would-be investors.

On top of that comes the international rollout story. Jamie’s Italian will launch in Russia over the coming weeks, with a site in St Petersburg followed by one in Moscow, and its first restaurants in Istanbul and Singapore will open from September. It also plans to enter Scandinavia and Canada next year, and Brazil before the football World Cup, with China on the cards for 2015.

The group is having preliminary chats with franchise partners about potential restaurant openings in Hungary, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Canada and India. Its international expansion also includes Barbecoa, the barbecue format developed with US chef Adam Perry-Lang, which opened in London in 2010, with Dubai, Moscow and Singapore under consideration. A second UK site is set to open in the West End.

Finally, it is thought the company is in talks with Manchester Council to open a site under the high-profile chef’s Fifteen restaurant model. With full-year sales edging towards £100m, It doesn’t look like the empire Jamie built will come tumbling down any time soon.

This story appeared in the July issue of Restaurant magazine, out today (3 July). Read the digital edition here or subscribe for a hard copy here.

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