Jamie isn’t infallible.

Back in October I wrote about Jamie Oliver being an entrepreneurial role model. I still believe that to be true but in the last week he has closed three of the four branches of ‘Union Jacks’ citing the ‘challenging climate’. I am particularly sad that the Chiswick branch closed as I ran a regular networking group there and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful or welcoming. It just goes to prove that even someone as successful as Jamie Oliver doesn’t win every time.

So what went wrong?

I don’t have insider knowledge on the reason for the failure so I can only surmise what went wrong. I think the offer was confusing, one description I read was ‘traditional English pub grub’ but they weren’t pubs. The Evening Standard described them as a pizza restaurant because they also sold pizza! If people don’t understand the offer they’re reluctant to buy and when there is a lot of competition people really need to understand why they should come to you.

I believe that the marketing could have been stronger. Many people I spoke to were aware of Union Jacks in Chiswick but didn’t know it was a Jamie Oliver brand. Might that have made a difference? I don’t know how much marketing was done in Chiswick but I didn’t pick up on any communications just four miles away and we didn’t even get any marketing messages at our meetings. Shouldn’t we have been asked to book a Christmas celebration when we met in November?

Here's a promotion that I did for a restaurant client before Christmas. Why didn't Union Jack's give us something similar at our November meeting?

Here’s a promotion that I did for a restaurant client before Christmas. Why didn’t Union Jack’s give us something similar at our November meeting?

I got the feeling that some of the Chiswick team felt the location may not have been right. Another successful chain had closed their branch at the same address before Union Jacks took it over. Location, location, location are the primary considerations in restaurants and retail. It’s incredibly difficult to get people even to cross the road unless it’s for something unique.

What are the lessons for small businesses?

  • Make the offer clear and easy to understand.
  • Make it easy for those in your target market to recognise that your offer is for them
  • Use every opportunity to get your marketing message out there. Social media is cheap, printing postcards can be very cost effective and your local paper will often be interested in a good news story so do something newsworthy and invite the press along.
  • Remember even happy customers are likely to forget about you within 90 days unless you stay in touch so make sure you are communicating with customers and prospects on a regular basis.
  • Choose your location very carefully and find out what kind of business preceded you and what why they left.
  • Set clear targets and measure your performance against them. If you’re not hitting your targets try to figure out why and do something about it. If that fails know when to pull the plug.

Last Word.

I have to congratulate the Union Jacks’ team in Chiswick for remaining professional to the end. They had less than a week’s notice of closure but they were their usual charming and helpful selves when we held our meeting on their penultimate day. I’m sure the fact that they had all been promised new jobs within the Jamie empire helped but that too is the mark of a good company.


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