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Jamie Oliver Comes to Hong Kong

In less than a year since first arriving in Hong Kong, Jamie's Italian is planning to open more restaurants with an eye on the next target, Mainland China.

Big Cat Group is the startup that acquired the rights to Jamie’s Italian for Hong Kong and Mainland China. Its chairman is Lord Mervyn Davies, the former chairman and CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. It took the company a year to prepare for the opening of Jamie’s Italian Hong Kong in July 2014. After six months of operation, the restaurant is attracting between 24,000 to 28,000 guests per month, and is planning to open more branches soon.

“When we first started, we spent a huge amount of focus on our recruitment and the training of our staff. InvestHK was responsible for a number of the chefs that we have in our restaurant today. It introduced us to Winnie Ngan, Academic Director of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) Hotel, Service and Tourism Studies Discipline, and from there we went on to meet with a number of different students, give talks about Jamie’s Italian and Jamie Oliver, and offer people a career path. The recruits we have are really good staff and we are very happy with them,” William Lyon, Chief Executive, Jamie’s Italian (Hong Kong and China), said.

Jamie Oliver Comes to Hong Kong

Unique Restaurant Experience

Located on Tang Lung Street, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Causeway Bay shopping and dining district, the 12,100-square foot high-ceiling restaurant offers a relaxed atmosphere and warm neighbourhood feel. It has an open-kitchen design with a fresh pasta making corner and an open antipasti bar positioned around the 200 seat restaurant, so that every customer can enjoy the theatre of the kitchen wherever they sit. Pasta is freshly made every day with free range organic eggs and top-grade 00 Italian flour. Juices are freshly squeezed and served to children alongside the kid’s menu.

“It is Jamie Oliver’s ambition to open Italian restaurants where families can enjoy quality and socially-responsible food at a good price. The Italian cuisine is simple and accessible, and that is reflected in the restaurant. Jamie’s Italian is a casual, walk-in, neighbourhood restaurant. It is not about fine dining. We have a celebrity chef without celebrity prices,” Lyon said.

The British TV chef designs all the menus, recipes, and makes final decisions on decoration and artwork. He requires all staff to have a good understanding of the food ingredients, food ethos and values. Through his food and cooking, he wants to educate young people about good food and empower people, especially children and the less well-off to eat healthily. His kid’s menu is another focus of the restaurant. There are daily specials and seasonal menus as well as an a-la-carte menu.

Staff training is another crucial area. “We spent a whole month training our staff to make sure they try all the food, understand the heritage of the ingredients and the culture of Jamie Oliver and Jamie’s Italian,” Lyon said.

“Hong Kong is a very open market and the people have an open mindset. They are willing to work with you and welcome new startups. The small size of Hong Kong also makes networking very easy,” he enthused. He believes there are many similarities between home-style Italian food and Chinese food, which will make Jamie’s Italian a successful brand for Chinese customers.

With about 100 staff now, the company has successfully introduced Jamie’s Italian as its first brand and will continue to introduce more consumer-focused brands to both Hong Kong and Mainland China markets.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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Fast Facts

  • The first Jamie’s Italian opened in Oxford, UK in 2008
  • It was the brainchild of Jamie Oliver and his Italian mentor, Gennaro Contaldo
  • The chain has around 50 establishments worldwide

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