Jamie’s Italian is officially under new ownership; the Jamie Oliver Group has just finalised the buy back of the famous chef’s six namesake Australian restaurants.
Jamie’s Italian has struggled in Australia. Perhaps it is a disconnection between the restaurants’ passionate namesake and their franchisees that made the quality of the food and service inconsistent. The online reviews are mixed and many settle in the “it was average” camp.
New Australian managing director Ben Shaughnessy (a UK Jamie Oliver Group alumnus) has moved permanently to Sydney to usher the chain through this transition. He’s confident about the future. “We certainly don’t believe we have bought back a damaged product,” says Shaughnessy. “In fact, our Australian restaurants are some of our most successful globally.”
He admits Keystone’s receivership was difficult for the brand’s image. Oliver will visit Sydney in May to launch a new menu and officially reopen the chain, something he didn’t do when the first Jamie’s Italian opened in Sydney in 2011.
Between Oliver’s visit and Shaughnessy’s appointment to managing director, it seems there’s a focus on success down under.
“It’s not about reinventing,” says Shaughnessy, “but rather reenergising what we have. It is key that our mentality changes. We are no longer a franchise.”
“I believe in Australia and I’m invested in it in so many ways. I can’t wait to get over there,” Oliver said in a press release.
Sourcing ingredients locally is an important part of Oliver’s ethos. The six restaurants will collaborate with local producers such as Serendipity Ice Cream, Boulangerie 113 and That’s Amore Cheese. The new menu will feature dishes such as wild mushroom ravioli; slow-cooked oxtail lasagne; and porchetta stuffed with garlic, chilli and herbs. For dessert there’s a very Jamie Oliver-esque “wobbly” panna cotta.
The wine list will include new and established Australian producers alongside Italian varieties. Only time will tell how this buy back will turn out. The proof will be in the wobbly panna cotta.