Jamie Oliver facing upheaval down under as Australian restaurant folds

Jamie Oliver is facing more upheaval at his restaurant empire after the celebrity chef was forced to put his Canberra restaurant into administration, leading to the likely loss of over 40 jobs.

In addition, the TV cook has offloaded a further five of his Jamie's Italian restaurants in Australia to Hallmark Group.

Oliver bought back his restaurants in Australia in 2016 when their previous owner, Keystone Group, went into administration. Keystone was hit by a change in alcohol licensing laws designed to reduce night-time drinking in Sydney and elsewhere.

When returning to the franchise model, Oliver was unable to sell his Canberra outlet, which has now closed.

A note on the door of the restaurant thanked the staff for their support, with the sign-off reading "Big Love Mr O xxx". A spokesman for Jamie's Italian said the message was not left by Oliver himself.

Hallmark said it was "thrilled" to be taking on the Australian portfolio, and that it was looking at possible locations for new Jamie's Italian restaurants.

Ben Shaughnessy, chief operating officer for the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, said: "Australia has and continues to be one of our best performing international markets and, after a short period of in-house management, we are pleased to be partnering with Hallmark.

"The team brings a huge amount of experience and passion for our brand, from collaborating with the key suppliers to our food philosophy, and we look forward to working with them as they develop the Jamie's Italian restaurant offering across Australia."

Jamie's Italian has been thrown into disarray in the UK after it was forced to approach landlords for a rescue deal that would involve the closure of 12 restaurants.

The restaurant chain hired AlixPartners to consult on the Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), an insolvency procedure used by struggling businesses seeking to cut costs.

As part of the plans, Jamie's Italian will also cut rents on more than 20 outlets.

The CVA came around a year after Jamie's Italian announced it was shutting six restaurants due to cost pressures associated with the Brexit vote.

- Press Association

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