The number of Thai, American, Mexican and Japanese chain restaurants has soared in the past five years, while Chinese and Spanish eateries appear to be on the decline.
The number of Thai restaurants in Britain has more than doubled from 66 to 147 in the five years to December 2018, with brands such as Giggling Squid and Rosa's both seeing significant growth - according to research into pub and restaurant chains by CGA and AlixPartners.
The number of American chain restaurants grew by 73% from 535 in December 2013 to 925 in December 2018, with barbecue and burger concepts the biggest drivers. Mexican chains increased their outlets by 49%, reaching 370 in the same period, while Japanese concepts grew by 44% reaching 305 sites.
In the same five-year period, a 44% drop in Chinese chain restaurants was seen alongside a 25% dip in Spanish outlets.
CGA's business unit director for food and retail, Karl Chessell, said: "This is an example of the fast-changing tastes of British diners. As consumers broaden their horizons with travel they are discovering many new cuisines and are bringing their appetite for fresh flavours back home. This trend is particularly obvious in the Asian sector, where food knowledge has gone way beyond Chinese, and interest in Thai, Japanese and a repertoire of other cuisines is soaring. The healthy aspects of these foods may well be another factor in their popularity."
He added: "The rise of managed Mexican restaurants shows the appeal of bold, spicy flavours. Many Mexican brands have also benefited from factors of convenience and location, which CGA data consistently shows to be big drivers of restaurant choice."
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: "The Asian-led part of the restaurant market is of particular interest to investors given its current popularity among consumers and is ripe for further merger and acquisition activity. There is more careful focus on what sets a brand apart from its peers and a clamour to acquire the best-in-class brand in each vertical and cuisine.
"We would expect to see private equity be increasingly active in the segment of the market, following the consumer-led demand. Trade buyers may well compete here to add Asian brands to their stable in the wake of the acquisition of Wagamama by The Restaurant Group. For the more established segments we would also expect more and more brands to be turning their attention overseas to increase their expansion options."
The Market Growth Monitor showed that Italian remained the most common type of cuisine served in chain restaurants, with the number of outlets increasing by 12% to 1,923 in the five years to December 2018. A decline in site numbers of 4% was however seen last year, as brands including Jamie's Italian and Prezzo, closed a large number of outlets.Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).