London remains a dominant force for eating and drinking out in the UK, but restaurant and bar operators are increasingly putting their focus on Britain's other big cities for their openings, according to latest figures from MarketGrowthMonitor.
The report, the quarterly measure of the nation's pub, bar and restaurant openings and closures produced by AlixPartners and CGA Peach, highlights that food-led sites in the capital increased by 13.4% over the five years to March, but by 22.4% in other big British cities.
Meanwhile, Cardiff, Leeds and Liverpool have seen their supply of licensed premises increase by more than a fifth over the last five years, with cities such as York, Newcastle and Manchester not far behind.
Surprisingly, London does not make the top 10 in terms of biggest growth in licensed premises in the last five years, although its stock is still greater than the rest of the cities on the list put together.
"Growth in regional cities is in part a consequence of the toughness of the London market," commented CGA Peach director Jamie Campbell. "With competition so fierce and property costs so high, established operators have been looking well beyond the capital for their growth opportunities."
Another underlying trend, according to the report, is big cities playing catch-up. While places like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff have always been well stocked with pubs and bars, their range of restaurants has, per capita, been way below that of London.
"With so many chains flocking in, the choice and quality of eating in these and many other cities is unrecognisable now from as recently as a decade ago. And with increasing numbers of people preferring to eat out than drink out, there is plenty of scope for this trend to continue. Regional cities will never the same intense concentrations of restaurants as London, but there is no doubt that they are narrowing the gap with the capital," added Campbell.
Earlier this week, Gordon Ramsay announced that he was considering three new UK restaurants beyond London. Currently operating 14 sites in London and 15 more globally, he said he was looking to open regional UK sites as well as more in the US as part of his partnership with Caesars Palace. Gordon Ramsay Group chief executive Stuart Gillies told the Guardian: "We are looking at properties in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. There's a great dining scene there and we are just considering what the options are."
The MarketGrowthMonitor report goes on to say that big cities are also catching up with London with the rise of small, dynamic operators. The London scene is dominated by independents and emerging groups, with 64% of restaurants operated by groups with fewer than 25 sites, up substantially from 51% five years ago. The report points out that this change is also now evident in other big cities, where small operators account for 40% of restaurants, up from 34% five years ago.
"This shows that for all the talk of identikit high streets, the majority of new restaurants are being opened by fledgling multi-site operators and indies. London still leads on this front and its diversity is unparalleled. But numerous exciting new operators have been born in the regional cities and are thriving there, Red's True Barbecue, San Carlo, Thaikhun and Living Ventures to name just four," said Campbell.
The AlixPartners and CGA Peach Market Growth Monitor is compiled quarterly from data supplied by CGA's Outlet Index, a continually updated database of all licensed premises.
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