More than 750 restaurants closed in the past 12 months, as the sector saw a fifth successive quarter of decline marking an end to a decade long “gold rush”.
The figure equates to about 15 sites a week and marks a 2.8% fall in the number of restaurants in Britain, following a boom period that saw a 15% increase between 2013 and 2018, according to the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners.
CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “CGA research has charted a remarkable surge in restaurants over the last decade — but our latest Market Growth Monitor makes it clear that the gold rush is over. Some distinctive and resolutely customer-focused restaurant groups continue to flourish, but for brands that have over-reached themselves or lost sight of their proposition and purpose, there are undoubtedly more tough times ahead.”
Times were hardest on the high street, particularly in the south of the country outside of London.
Independent restaurants bore the brunt of closures, but chain restaurants also fell in number by 1.1%, with closures again concentrated in the south of the country.
Ross Kirton, head of UK leisure at real estate company Colliers, told The Caterer: “We’ve had a number of units come back to the market through CVAs as well as solvent operators disposing of sites and a large amount of failed restaurants.
“There are now opportunities for some of those good quality independent restaurants who have got anything from one to a handful of sites, and weren’t able to compete with the big chains in the growth phase, to capitalise by picking up fitted restaurants with much lower capital expenditure needed.”
Simon Chaplin, senior director – corporate pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, agreed saying landlords were proving more flexible: “Operators, particularly individual and smaller multi-site operators, should seek to take advantage of available space on the high street, where landlords have become increasingly receptive towards new concepts and innovative change. Landlords have also started to offer new benefits and incentives, such as deals on rents, reduced ingoing premium costs, planning permission and even a complete fit out.”
The challenges faced on the high street are continuing but Kirton said that the fall in the number of restaurants be considered a “right-sizing” following a period of over-supply that contributed to the casual dining crash.
Several years after the pub sector endured its own crash the Market Growth Monitor had brighter news for drink-led pubs, with closures having fallen from 31 to 13 a week in the last three years.
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “The positive take on this clear out is that ambitious and well-resourced operators now have more headroom for growth, and the Market Growth Monitor identifies bright prospects for many groups in the drink-led pub and bar space in particular.”