Burrito bars and restaurants such as Barburrito and Chilango have grown faster than any other high street brand over the last five years, according to a new report.
CBRE, the commercial property and real estate services advisor, has also highlighted catering as being the only chain sector to have seen unbroken growth in the UK over the past 17 years.
The company analysed data supplied by Retail Locations and found that food outlet numbers are now 258% higher than in 1998 (8% annual average growth rate) with a total of 17,450 chain branches in operation across the country. This growth far outweighs that of other leisure outlets, such as cinemas and gyms, which have grown by 90% since 1998, equivalent to a 4% annual average growth rate.
"The recession, in tandem with the growth of online retailing, hit parts of the UK high street hard, but the restaurant sector proved extremely resilient," said Seb Howard, head of central London leisure at CBRE. " In recent years, there has been extraordinary diversification in the restaurant sector driven by demand for new types of cuisine and changing eating patterns fuelled by the rise of street food."
The growth of restaurants specialising in relatively new types of food to the UK market has been particularly strong, growing at the fastest rate of any food type over the last five years. There has been a 71% rise in burrito chain branch numbers over the last 12 months and an average annual growth rate of 57% since 2009. Similarly, outlets specialising in mixed world cuisine, such as Giraffe, have seen growth of 41% over the last year. New chains in natural healthy food, like Leon, have seen rapid growth of 38% over the last year and 15% annual average growth since 2010.
Traditional restaurant chains have seen far slower growth. Italian groups, such as Carluccio's and Jamie's Italian, the UK's largest in terms of numbers of branches (817), have had limited average growth over the last five years at just 5%. Steak restaurants have also seen slow average annual growth at just 1%, while specialist fish restaurants have seen falls in branches with average annual growth of -3% over the same period.
In separate figures from the National Caterers Association, the number of registered street food vendors operating in the UK has increased from 10 to over 1,000 in the last five years.
"Street food has had a massive impact on the wider market in recent years," explained Nigel Costain, head of leisure-development and leasing at CBRE. "The variety and quality of food on offer has increased and created a consumer expectation that this should be replicated in restaurants. This has breathed new life into the industry."