Jamie's Italian outlets here to carry on as usual

Both this outlet (above) and the one at Forum The Shopping Mall are locally owned and not affected by the closure of the outlets in Britain.
Both this outlet (above) and the one at Forum The Shopping Mall are locally owned and not affected by the closure of the outlets in Britain. PHOTOS: GIN TAY, ST FILE
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (above) at Jamie’s Italian at VivoCity during a stopover in Singapore in March 2014.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (above) at Jamie’s Italian at VivoCity during a stopover in Singapore in March 2014. PHOTOS: GIN TAY, ST FILE

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's restaurant empire may have collapsed in Britain, but in Singapore, it is "business as usual" for the two franchised outlets at VivoCity and Forum The Shopping Mall.

Jamie's Italian outlets here are owned and operated by food and beverage company Integrated Food Concepts Singapore, which said in a statement on Wednesday that "Jamie's Italian VivoCity and Forum are locally owned and operated under a franchise agreement with Jamie's Italian International Limited. As such, both Singapore-based outlets remain unaffected by this recent announcement".

The closures in Britain come under Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group.

Jamie's Italian first opened in 2008 in Oxford, and other brands under the 43-year-old TV host's empire include restaurant-bar Fifteen and steakhouse Barbecoa.

Jamie's Italian at VivoCity opened in 2013 to much fanfare, as well as mixed reviews, with diners complaining about the quality of food and long queues. The second outlet opened at Forum The Shopping Mall in 2015.

The Straits Times understands the brand's entrance into Singapore is in collaboration with property group Hotel Properties. Jamie's Italian in Bali and Bangkok, as well as Hard Rock Cafe outlets in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, are all listed on the group's website.

When Oliver was in Singapore for the first time in 2014, he said the restaurants in Singapore were "a dream come true".

In response to diners being underwhelmed by his style of homey Italian fare, the straight-talking chef also told The Straits Times that the menu "stays true to its roots".

"The food we do here is rustic; we don't put bulls*** on the plate. If we have a Tuscan dish that is slow-cooked, we cook it as we learnt it in Tuscany. If people don't want that, there are other restaurants in town," he said.

On how the closures in Britain could affect the franchised outlets, Mr Francis Poulose, managing director of food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates, said: "It depends on the structure of the company, finances, and how the franchise contract was drawn up. It would affect the brand image, but it won't affect Jamie Oliver himself or his shows."

Weighing in on the future of the outlets here, Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia at real estate agency CBRE, said: "They do not necessarily have to close, as long as quality is maintained. In fact, maybe they can veer away from franchise restrictions and reinvent themselves."

The news of the closures in Britain saddened Ms Lee Yan, 32, as she had dined at Jamie's Italian three times while holidaying in Edinburgh in 2015 and 2016.

In Singapore, the marketing manager has eaten at the restaurant once, but "never felt the need to go back".

"I prefer to dine at more value-for-money places," she said, but if the brand can reinvent itself, she does not mind giving it another go.

"Taste, portions and pricing are most important to me. If those were improved, I'd consider eating there, provided the queues aren't ridiculously long, like when they first opened."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'Jamie's Italian outlets here to carry on as usual'. Print Edition | Subscribe