The economic downturn is giving emerging operators the chance to flourish as larger chains pull back on expansion plans, research has found.

According to a report into the branded restaurant sector by property agent Christie + Co, many of the UK’s leading restaurant operators have delayed expansion plans over the last 18 months to concentrate on stabilising their business during the recession.

Simon Chaplin, head of Christie’s restaurant team, said this has given emerging operators an opportunity to expand their offering.

“With the larger groups otherwise engaged, the door has been opened for emerging operators such as Jamie’s Italian and Cote to grow their estates and place their brands firmly in the minds of consumers, giving them a base to expand even further over the next few years,” he said.

Chaplin added that the lack of competition for high street sites is allowing for modest expansion in regional and even national areas.

“With the majority of the national operators focusing on paying down debt, raising new funds and streamlining their operations, a buying vacuum has also been left in regional markets into which established local operators have started to move,” he said.

“The test for these emerging operators now is to build on their initial inroads and success, especially when a recovery begins and the more established companies return to the acquisition trail in earnest.”


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By Emma White


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