06/01/2017 11:11 GMT | Updated 06/01/2017 12:53 GMT

Jamie Oliver Restaurants Closing 'Due To Brexit', Chief Executive Claims

The proposed closures have been blamed on post-Brexit 'unknowns'.

Nick Ansell/PA Archive
Jamie's Italian is the restaurant chain founded and majority-owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is to close six of his Italian restaurants amid pressures caused by an uncertain economy post-Brexit vote, the chain’s chief executive has said.

The Naked Chef, famed for his cooking programmes, will shutter branches of Jamie’s Italian in Exeter, Aberdeen, Cheltenham, Tunbridge Wells, Richmond, and one site in central London.

Simon Blagden, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group said: “As every restaurant owner knows, this is a tough market and post-Brexit the pressures and unknowns have made it even harder.”

However, the company confirmed to The Huffington Post UK that it will open 22 new restaurants abroad this year, with several earmarked for major European cities - including Dusseldorf, Germany.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurants have been affected by uncertainty post-Brexit vote, the firm said

Blagden confirmed the firm will try to find other positions for the some 120 staff affected by the decision.

“These closures are in no way a reflection on the the dedication and commitment of our staff and my first priority is to try and secure those affected alternative jobs,” he said.

“Where this isn’t possible, we’ll be working with them to find alternative employment.”

Sophie Duval/EMPICS Entertainment
Jamie's Italian currently has 35 restaurants in the UK

The high cost of ingredients was blamed for piling pressure on the business’s margins. 

Fluctuations in the exchange rate between dollars, euros and the pound after the Brexit vote last year have wreaked havoc with business’s procurement plans - as spiralling costs become harder to predict.

“Because we refuse to compromise on the quality and provenance of our ingredients and our commitment to training and developing our staff, we need restaurants that can serve an average of 3,000 covers every week to be sustainable,” Blagden added.

Jamie’s Italian will continue to expand internationally.

The group of companies under the Jamie Oliver brand, including TV and book publishing, achieved pre-tax profits of £10.2m in 2015.

Jamie’s Italian was the group’s biggest contributor, with a turnover that year of £116.1m.

Leave.EU was quick to respond to claims Brexit lay behind the decision. The campaign tweeted: “Closures were a habit for Jamie Oliver long before Brexit. Still, an easy scapegoat, eh?”

In 2015, Oliver closed outlets of his delicatessen chain Recipease, leaving 40 staff without jobs before Christmas that year.

The chef closed three branches of the Union Jack pub chain in 2014 after a failed attempt to grow the business. Just one site trades today.

Oliver had previously praised Brexit-supporting Ukip for ‘stirring up’ British politics. The irony was pointed out on social media. 

Oliver has yet to comment himself on the proposed closures.