The past year has marked a remarkable expansion in spin-offs of successful independent restaurant concepts, with the number more than doubling since the previous year.
That's according to findings from Harden's London Restaurants, which was published today.
The guide, now in its 27th edition, undertakes an annual analysis of the number of openings and closures of independent restaurants in the capital.
When looking at independent operators with just one site, there are signs that the climate for independent London restaurant operators is getting tougher, as the number of closures this year increased as compared with the year before, while the pace of new openings slowed. The guide recorded 193 newcomers since the last publication, as compared with 200 the previous year.
Meanwhile, the rate of restaurant closures rose from 84 in the previous year to 76 this year. That was the third highest number on record (the peak was 113, set in 2004). Net openings of 109 were lower by 12% than the previous year's 124.
However, Harden's highlighted a slightly different picture if the figures are adjusted to include branches of chains. The number of spin-offs - parts of chains at the early stages of a roll-out - which Harden's usually discounts from its numbers, more than doubled in the last year from 25 to 53, to give an aggregate newcomers total of 246 this year, as compared with 225 in the previous year.
The guide's founder Peter Harden said: "You only have to look to the Ivy, to see a restaurant that was once a stand-alone icon, now being rolled out at a rate that would do McDonald's proud. The old cliché that ‘independent = good, chain = bad' is being challenged at an incredible rate, with the duplication in the last year of concepts rated very highly in the Harden's survey, such as Dinings, the Frog, Hoppers, James Cochran, Smoking Goat and Temper, all turning this traditional presumption on its head."
It was east London and south London which were the destinations of choice for new openings, with a weak performance for west London, making it the "least interesting point on the compass", according to Harden's. Meat-based cuisines were less to the fore than last year too, with Indian openings pipping them to the post as the third most popular category (the first two places were occupied by modern British and Italian cuisines respectively).
The average price of dinner for one at establishments listed in the guide is £53.20 (compared with £51.37 last year), meaning that prices have risen by 3.6% in the past 12 months. This was above inflation, which ran at 2.9% for the 12 months to August 2017.
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