Jamie Oliver had to dip into his own bank account to save his restaurant group from bankruptcy.
In a new interview with the Financial Times, the celebrity chef, 43, revealed that last September, while shooting an episode of his U.K. television series Friday Night Feast with Liv Tyler, he received a phone call informing him that his restaurant group, Jamie’s Italian, was just hours away from bankruptcy.
“We had simply run out of cash,” he said to FT, adding that the news came as a complete surprise to him.
“We hadn’t expected it. This is just not normal, in any business,” he explained. “You have quarterly meetings. You do board meetings. People supposed to manage that stuff should manage that stuff.”
After getting the call, Oliver put £7.5 million (nearly $10 million) of his own money into the chain right away — adding in an additional £5.2 million pounds (about $6.7 million) in the following months.
“I had two hours to put money in and save it or the whole thing would go to s— that day or the next day,” he added. “It was as bad as that and as dramatic as that.”
Over the past year, Oliver’s restaurant empire, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, confirmed in a statement that they would be closing 12 out of the its 36 restaurants in the U.K., reported Eater.
Although Oliver’s restaurant group has also received £37 million in loans from both HSBC bank and subsidiaries of the restaurant group, last year they declared £71.5 million of debt (roughly $100 million), according to the Financial Times.
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“I honestly don’t know [what happened],” Oliver went on to explain. “We’re still trying to work it out, but I think that the senior management we had in place were trying to manage what they would call the perfect storm — rents, rates, the high street declining, food costs, Brexit, increase in the minimum wage. There was a lot going on.”
The restaurant group’s current CEO Jon Knight added that there were other factors which contributed to the problem.
“We were opening too many restaurants, too quickly, in the wrong places. We were opening in places that weren’t university towns and didn’t have enough of a tourism element,” he told FT, adding that he predicts it will take the restaurants four years to get out of debt and start making a profit again. He also claimed that Oliver will get “most of” his money back.
However, despite the hardships the company has endured, Oliver remains optimistic that his restaurant group can recover.“We’re beginning to see a little bit of light out of a very dark year,” he shared.