Restaurant operators are prioritising regional towns and cities as London growth dries up, according to speakers at the Peach 2020 conference this week.
Libby Andrews, marketing director for Pho, said: “Our confidence comes from openings outside of London, where people are ready for new and exciting brands and healthy food they can eat more than once or twice a month.”
The group operates 12 sites outside of London, including six openings since 2016, in Exeter, Guildford, Reading, Leeds, Leicester and Liverpool.
Simon Bunn, founder of Brewhouse and Kitchen, told the conference his most successful site was out of London, while Stephen Finch, founder of the London-based chain of five Vagabond wine bars, said he was targeting 25-30 sites around the UK. “We are close to maxing out London,” he said.
Phil Tate, CGA group chief executive, highlighted Aberdeen, Salford, Bristol, Swansea and Edinburgh as the areas delivering the highest sales growth.
“Operators are moving there for the first time as they’re finding London has reached peak value,” he said.
According to CGA research Aberdeen is showing the highest growth within the best performing large towns and cities at 11.9%, followed by Salford (11.2%), Bristol (7.1%), Swansea (6.8%), Edinburgh (5.5%), Wolverhampton (5%), Birmingham (4.8%), Manchester (4.6%), Coventry (4.1%) and Reading (4.1%).
However, Andrews warned that you can’t take a “London approach” to rolling out brands in other areas.
“You have to learn about a city and its people and spend time in an area before, during and after a launch,” she said.
This was echoed by Tate, who warned of the importance of operators carrying out due diligence, with two restaurants currently closing for every opening.
“It’s got to be based on science rather than gut feel, as operators are not selecting the right sites,” he said.