Staff at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire are owed £2.2m and the business has amassed debts of £71.5m, it has been revealed.

Its five-year-old Cheltenham restaurant on County Court Road closed last year affecting up to 120 staff with the company blaming Brexit.

But is has now emerged another 12 of the remaining 37 restaurants will also close with 450 job losses expected in cities including Bristol, Reading, and Harrogate.

High Court documents obtained by the Sun on Sunday show the company owes £30.2m in overdrafts and loans.

The business also owes £41.3m to the likes of HMRC, landlords, and suppliers. 

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver, whose food empire stretches across media content, cookbooks, separate restaurant brands and charitable foundations, allegedly begged landlords to cut rents in a bid to stop the collapse after losing £10m in 2017.

The celebrity chef's chain, which opened its first site in Oxford in 2008, will have 25 restaurants left in the UK including one in Manchester, and 28 overseas.

The company's restructuring plan was backed by 95 per cent of creditors, according to Manchestereveningnews.co.uk. The Company Voluntary Arrangement, an insolvency process, is set to secure rent reductions in the remainder of Jamie's Italian sites.

 
Jamie Oliver's Italian in Cheltenham - as it was 
Inside Jamie's Italian
What it looked like inside Jamie's Italian in Cheltenham

Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools are reportedly worth around £150m. The star's personal assets are not thought to be at risk if the company goes into liquidation.

Last year, Jamie Oliver blamed Brexit on the closure of six of his Jamie's Italian branches.

He blamed poor trading conditions, rising food and staffing costs, and a weakening pound.

The company said "We are pleased to have received the overwhelming support from our creditors for our proposal to reshape Jamie’s Italian restaurants. The CVA approval ensures Jamie’s Italian’s great staff and suppliers can all get paid and has saved 1,800 jobs.

"We have a strong brand and are focused on continuing to deliver the levels of service, taste and the experience our loyal customers deserve. 

Jamie Oliver

"We are working hard to ensure that our estate is fit for the current trading environment and we feel confident that this newly shaped business will provide strong opportunities for growth and profitability."

The Jamie's Italian restaurants facing closure are Bath, Bristol, Bluewater, Chelmsford, Greenwich, Harrogate, St Albands, Kingston, Reading, Kingston, Milton Keynes, London's Threadneedle St site, and the Piccadilly Diner, also in London.

Jamie's Italian is one of many restaurant groups to suffer a difficult mid-market. Chains such as Byron and Prezzo are also facing closures and losses.

A wider trend

James Wallin, from MCA Insight, which first broke the news, told Mirror Online: "The troubles facing Jamie’s Italian are by no means specific to this group, but symptomatic of a wider trend across the casual dining sector.

"The past decade has seen an explosion in chain restaurants opening across the UK, buoyed by cheap lending and seemingly insatiable appetite for eating out.

"We went way past the tipping point where supply outstripped demand and brands are now facing pressures on all fronts – their revenues have been hit by customers tightening their belts and their profits by multiple rising costs.

"I don’t expect Jamie’s Italian to be disappearing from our high streets anytime soon (although his Barbecoa steakhouse concept does appear to be on the way out) but, like other branded restaurants, it needs to adapt to a very different trading environment."

Restaurant consultant Hugh Richard Wright said he thinks medium-sized chains are struggling due to reduced customer spend, and higher business costs.

He added that the availability of great food, often for less, is having an impact; the market is arguably saturated.

Hugh added: "In the case of Jamie’s Italian and similar groups of this size such as Strada and Byron, I think it’s also attributable to consumers abandoning the ‘middle market’ having realised they can get better quality food from (say) their local Italian or burger joint at the same price or less.

"This I think is a problem afflicting a lot of mid-market chains: the food isn’t (usually) terrible, but nor is it good enough to justify the prices charged.

"Discerning consumers would rather pay more for better, or if they just want convenience and cheapness. It’s why so many chefs will tell you that the Big Mac is the best burger; it might not be as good quality meat or bread as say one of the ‘better burger’ chains, but it is satisfying, filling, consistent – and £2.99."