Restaurants filling high street after online shift

Restaurants like Barburrito (pictured) have mushroomed across the UK, up 258 per cent since 1998 - or 8 per cent a year
Restaurants like Barburrito (pictured) have mushroomed across the UK, up 258 per cent since 1998 - or 8 per cent a year
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THE dramatic growth in restaurant and fast food outlets across the UK – often filling units left behind as services such as banking and estate agency have shifted online – has been highlighted by figures out today.

In a major study of the UK retail sector, property consultancy CBRE found that restaurant and food outlet numbers are now 258 per cent higher than in 1998 thanks to an 8 per cent annual average growth rate.

The growth, which has taken total numbers up to 17,450 branches helped by the launch of new brands such as Jamie’s Italian and Barburrito, far outweighs that of other leisure outlets such as bingo halls, cinemas and gyms which have grown by 90 per cent since 1998, equivalent to a 4 per cent annual average.

It is also far above the increase seen in other retailers and shops which are now 50 per cent higher than in 1998 after 3 per cent annual average growth.

In contrast, the number of outlets in the services sector such as estate agents, banks and building societies has fallen 36 per cent since 1988 as operators have moved their business activities online.

Seb Howard of CBRE said the study highlighted the resilience of the restaurant trade during a period when the recession and growth of online retailing had hit other parts of the UK high street hard.

“There has been extraordinary diversification in the restaurant sector driven by the demand for new types of cuisine and the changing eating patterns fuelled by the rise of street food vendors. These trends have injected vibrancy into the market and seen restaurateurs capitalise on the increased availability of premises and floor-space left by other shop operators closing their doors.

“This is why the sector is so important to the health of the UK high street, encouraging consumers back and increasing the time they spend close to other local retailers.”

The growth of restaurants specialising in relatively new types of food to the UK market has been particularly strong in recent years. The number of burrito bars and restaurants such as Barburrito and Chilango has grown at the fastest rate of any food type over the last few years with a 71 per cent rise in branch numbers over the last twelve months and an average annual growth rate of 57 per cent since 2009.

Similarly, outlets specialising in mixed world cuisine, such as Giraffe, have seen growth of 41 per cent over the last year and 40 per cent annual average over the last five years.

More traditional restaurant offerings have seen far slower growth. For example, while Italian chain restaurants, such as Carluccio’s, are the largest in terms of the number of branches, the average growth in numbers has been limited over the last five years at just 5 per cent.

In separate figures from the National Caterers Association, the number of registered street food vendors operating in the UK has increased from ten to some 1,000 in the past five years.

CBRE said that the variety and quality of street food on offer had increased markedly and had also driven improvements in standards in restaurants.