Knocking up a decent meal; anyone can do it. Ingredients, heat and timings, it’s easy really.
But chefs are fetishised, they’re everywhere, except where they should be, and when they have opened a new restaurant and are asked about their future plans, they will always say they intend to open more, to expand. They are good at something pretty much anyone can do, but they are bad at business.
They open a restaurant, get a bit of success, then open a further 25 and after falling out with close family members, announce they are closing the chain down, owing creditors millions (who will get nothing) and their staff a livelihood.
Hubris, overambition, whatever, they all tend to fall for it.
Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire called in the administrators, putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk. Ironically, they shut 23, not 15 of his establishments
The company, which includes 23 Jamie’s Italian outlets, plus the Fifteen and Barbecoa restaurants, is understood to be appointing KPMG as administrator.
Oliver said: “I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the staff and our suppliers who have put their hearts and souls into this business for over a decade. I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected.
“I would also like to thank all the customers who have enjoyed and supported us over the last decade, it’s been a real pleasure serving you.”
Okay, so Jamie’s sorry, but they all do it; from Gordon Ramsay to Christoph Novelli, Antony Worrall Thompson and Tom Aitkens.
There is a definite pattern; open your first restaurant, make it a success and decide you want more of that success; but it’s not that simple. You need to open the second new restaurant somewhere else, an area you may not know as well and, as you can’t be in two places at once, you need to employ more senior staff and these complications increase exponentially as your sprawling empire grows and you gradually lose control of your finances and quality control.
A good chef is not necessarily a good businessperson, so you will need to rely on experts who will further drain your financial resources.
The better way to do it is to open one or two and ensure you do them extremely well and if you feel the need for huge wealth and global domination, do it on TV and with your books.
Tom Kerridge is a good example, lining his pockets by limiting his empire to a manageable two or three restaurants, plus maybe an outlet in a prestigious hotel (who will take on the financial burden), plus a bit of dicking around on TV and the odd diet book.
The River Cafe is one of the UK’s most successful restaurants, started by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. They knocked out the occasional cook book, but ensured their restaurant remained a successful go-to destination.
The only downside is they also spawned Jamie Oliver.