M Restaurants boss bids to save Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa

M Restaurants founder Martin Williams has put in a bid to buy Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa steakhouse restaurants, which were put up for sale last week.

Williams, who already has two London city centre M venues and an M Bar & Grill in Twickenham, said he was interested in saving the two Barbecoa sites – in Piccadilly and One New Change at St Paul’s – which were put up for sale through Christie & Co last week.

Related Article: Dated and dying chains like Jamie Oliver and Byrons slammed by M Restaurants boss

Barby Ltd, Barbecoa’s parent company has since fallen into administration with AlixPartners appointed administrators.

The Piccadilly site has closed, while the One New Change site is trading as usual after the assets and lease were purchased by One New Change Ltd, a subsidiary of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group.

Williams said: “I believe there is a future for Barbecoa which appears to be a casualty of the melt-down of the Oliver Empire.

“I’m interested in acquiring the brand and protecting the jobs of staff, many of who are very talented individuals whom I have mentored throughout my career. I believe the business has potential and we approached the company late last week to attempt to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement.”

Barbecoa’s sale is part of a ‘comprehensive review’ of Oliver’s restaurant estate and comes after Jamie’s Italian agreed to close 13 sites as part of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

Jamie’s Italian was one of the restaurant chains Williams dubbed ‘dated and rightly dying‘ last week as he announced a record year for his own restaurant group.

He said: “Our success contrasts with chain restaurants even the best of which give a mediocre offering in a soulless environment and are all too often being found out as poor value for money, devoid of personality and quality.”

In an interview Williams told Hospitality & Catering News his business was actively ‘looking for opportunities’.

There are plans to open a second site under the company’s M Bar & Grill format, which opened in Twickenham last year either in the commuter belt or closer to central London,.

“We’re also doing a partnership with two retail brands and are in conversations with two hotel groups – one in Europe and one in the UK,” he said. “We are open to new opportunities.”

Williams said Barbecoa would be a third brand for his growing business, but is keen to stress that he will never become a chain operator.

“I believe that all restaurants have to have their own character,” he said. “That means giving freedom to the managers and chefs to develop their own concepts. The moment you impose central control the spark of creativity and the very life blood of the hospitality industry is crushed.”

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