The Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners revealed that Britain had 539 fewer restaurants than the previous year, with 26,892 open in September this year. The net fall demonstrates an acceleration in closures since the start of the year.
Independents - particularly family-owned Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants - have borne the brunt of the closures despite the CVAs seen in the casual dining sector. The monitor found that the number of independently owned restaurants fell by 2.6% while managed restaurants saw growth of 1%.
The pace of closures was also higher in rural areas than high streets, at 3.6% and 2.6% respectively, with some city centres, including Birmingham, actually seeing an increase in the restaurants, pubs and bars. The north of the country fared better than the south, seeing a 2.8% fall in premises compared to 4% in the south.
CGA vice president Peter Martin said: "The eating out sector has been one of the UK economy's biggest success stories of the last decade, with casual dining brands growing at a phenomenal rate. But as our latest Market Growth Monitor shows, there are clearly limits to the country's capacity. We have seen a steady flow of pub and bar closures for many years now, but the restaurant sector is now going through its own clear out."
He added: "The bulk of closures are from independents, while managed groups remain in growth - and this trend is welcome news for some of them, since it eases over-capacity and frees up more property. But these figures are a reminder that all restaurant brands need a well-defined and brilliantly executed offer if they are to succeed in a survival of the fittest in 2019."
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: "The figures in this edition of the Market Growth Monitor again illustrate that space remains for ambitious and innovative businesses to expand in areas outside of London. Pockets of growth are still to be found for businesses with a highly differentiated offer and strong focus on the guest experience."
He continued: "As ever, for operators to succeed, they need to show a deep understanding of their local communities and what will work for their customer base. Those who fail to meet these expectations will inevitably fall by the wayside. But for businesses in the sector looking to grow, there remain a multitude of options across both equity and debt and investors continue to see attractive opportunities."