Bristol, birthplace of Blackbeard the Pirate, battleground of the slave trade reformers and a
bombsite after the Blitz in 1940, is also the gateway to the West Country and a city that attracts most chain operators. The problem is that, quite simply, Bristol is full.
"It's a key destination that most operators fancy," says Rob Kinsman, the city's location manager for property agents Christie & Co. "They will talk about rolling out a brand and going to Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Bath. It has an affluent population, people like to eat out, and that is attractive. The restaurant property that we get on our books, we sell and sell very quickly."
There are two main restaurant centres in Bristol - the central Park Street area and the more residential Clifton Village area to the east of the centre. According to Kinsman, the first area is where the corporate operators want to be. In recent years Tootsies, Nando's, Ask and Caf Rouge have opened here. The sites are a decent size and there are shops and retail outlets to create a good footfall.
"The corporates would also like to be in Clifton," says Kinsman, "but the sites there are usually too small. In old, historic buildings, there is only room for 60-70 covers, and so what becomes available usually goes to an independent operator."
Planning applications are also a problem in Clifton, with no more A3 licences likely to be approved in the near future.
Rents in Bristol average out at about 25-30 per sq ft, which is the same for nearby Bath.
Out-of-town locations include the Cribbs Causeway development to the north of the city at the M4-M5 Motorway interchange. At the moment, however, like the city centre, there are few sites available. "The operators who are there, like Frankie & Benny's, don't let their sites go easily," says Kinsman.
Kinsman also makes one final point about Bristol that shouldn't be ignored - it is a fairly seasonal town. "In the summer, the students leave and the residents go to the coast, which is in easy reach. We don't get many tourists and it can be very quiet sometimes," he says, although he repeats: it doesn't stop everyone wanting to be in Bristol.
Report by Forbes Mutch