Many casual dining brands continued to expand on British high streets over the last year, despite the host of challenges facing the eating and drinking out sector.
According to the Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, Britain had 122,221 licensed premises at December 2017 – a drop of just 0.3% on 12 months earlier, despite mounting cost pressures, weak market confidence and uncertainty over Brexit.
The bulk of closures of licensed premises in 2017 were of drink-led pubs and bars, the Monitor showed.
However, Britains casual dining brands remained in growth last year, with overall restaurant numbers rising by 0.6% in the year to December. The country now has 16.7% more restaurants than it did in December 2012, underlining the growth of the sector.
The Monitor also pinpointed high streets as the leading source of this growth. The number of licensed premises on high streets increased by 0.6% in the year to December 2017 – compared to declines of 0.8% and 0.2% in suburban and rural areas respectively.
CGA’s recently-published 2018 Business Leaders’ Survey suggested that many operators will now be scaling back their new opening plans over this year.
Concerns about market saturation and rising property costs, especially among food-led operations, as well as people and food costs are likely to have an impact on the number of licensed premises in 2018.
Other trends identified by the new report include:
Growth in the North West, with the Granada region increasing its number of food-led licensed premises by 2.9% in the year to December 2017
Tough trading conditions in outer London, where total licensed premises fell 1.9% in the yearcompared to 0.6% growth in inner London
Consistent growth in food-led pubs and bars, whose numbers have increased by 4.7% since December 2012
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “With some casual dining operators announcing restaurant closures at the start of 2018, there has been much talk of over-supply in many of Britains cities and towns.
“But where exactly is supply exceeding demand? With consumer habits changing so fast, it can be hard to tell. In all cases, most closures have been pubs rather than restaurants. For all brands, selecting the right towns for openings will be more important than ever.”