The number of restaurants, pubs and bars across Britain fell by only 1.8% in the 12 months to December 2019, the lowest rate of year-on-year decline for almost two years.
According to the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, Britain had a total of 116,203 licensed premises at December.
This represents an average net closure rate of six sites a day over the last 12 months, with the pace of closures falling to its lowest point since Market Growth Monitor data for March 2018.
Total pub and bar numbers fell by 2%, while food-led sites “held up better” than drink-led counterparts, which have seen 4,297 net closures since December 2014.
Total restaurants fell by 1.6%, though group restaurants (managed sites of operators with more than one location) increased by 1.8% in the year to December. This marked a second successive quarter of growth.
Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “While the licensed sector continues to contract, our latest Market Growth Monitor also shows reasons to be optimistic about prospects for 2020.
“We are still seeing unsustainable pubs close, but collectively the rate of net number of pub, bar and restaurants closing is slowing.”
He added: Last year was not easy for some big restaurant brands, but smaller and medium sized brands are bringing new concepts to the market and successfully scaling up.
“All our research shows that consumers are still eager to go out to eat and drink, and they’ve never had it better for choice.”
Managing director at AlixPartners, Graeme Smith, said: “Overall, the eating and drinking out market remains dynamic and attractive to investors, with this very much in evidence across last year where pubs and experiential businesses took up the slack in investment activity from the more subdued restaurant sector.
“Reduced political uncertainty, more positive recent trading results and encouraging returns when investing in sites, provide a platform for increased M&A and investment activity in 2020 across both wet-led and food-led concepts.”
He added that investors will now be “looking carefully” at what the impact on trading will be amid the recent Coronavirus outbreak.