Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has issued an emotional statement after his restaurant chain collapsed into administration, putting at least 1300 jobs at risk.
The celebrity chef's firm Jamie's Italian Limited - which includes 23 Jamie's Italian restaurants and 15 Barbecoa outlets - has appointed KPMG as administrators.
In a statement, Oliver said he and staff had "put our hearts and souls into the business" and described the administration as a "difficult time for everyone".
He 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.
"We launched Jamie's Italian in 2008 with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining in the UK high street, with great value and much higher quality ingredients, best in class animal welfare standards and an amazing team who shared my passion for great food and service. And we did exactly that."
KPMG said all but three of the group's 25 eateries will close. They include restaurants in the Jamie's Italian chain, as will the more upmarket Fifteen, and steak house Barbecoa.
Five branches of the Australian arm of Jamie's Italian have been sold off, while another was put into administration.
The father of five opened his first Jamie's Italian in 2008 and saw rapid expansion across the UK in the early 2010s.
The company had been in trouble for at least two years, despite Oliver's global fame on the back of his cookbooks and television shows. Last year, it shuttered 12 of its 37 sites in Britain, while five branches of the Australian arm of Jamie's Italian were sold off and another put into administration.
He has personally pumped £13 million into his Italian chain, but it was not enough.
Will Wright, a partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said that the directors at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group had worked hard to stabilize the business, but costs were rising and consumer confidence was brittle.
He said the priority now is to support those that have been made redundant.
Simon Mydlowski, a partner at Yorkshire law firm Gordons and an expert on the hospitality industry, said Jamie's is the latest brand that has failed to keep pace in a rapidly changing sector where a business needs to keep evolving.
"A number of suppliers will have been caught unawares here, perhaps showing a little too much trust in the Jamie Oliver name, but this is not the first big restaurant chain to have suffered and it won't be the last," he said in a statement.
"Faced with higher rent, rising food prices and increased competition, restaurants need a point of difference — it's no coincidence that smaller brands with the freedom and flexibility to keep things fresh are currently the ones performing well."
- with AP