Independent restaurants step up pace of openings in Glasgow city centre

Among the recent openings was Sugo, an eagerly awaited new pasta restaurant on Mitchell Street. Picture: John Devlin
Among the recent openings was Sugo, an eagerly awaited new pasta restaurant on Mitchell Street. Picture: John Devlin
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Independent restaurateurs are driving forward the food and beverage market in Glasgow, while demand from national operators remains healthy, new research reveals.

There were 11 independently owned eateries that opened for business in the city centre in 2019, accounting for 70 per cent of new occupiers, according to commercial property consultancy Savills. That continued the trend seen in 2018, when the percentage stood at 63 per cent.

Highlights in the past year included the openings of: Sugo, an eagerly awaited new pasta restaurant on Mitchell Street and sister restaurant to Paesano; Bo and Birdy, a modern brasserie at Blythswood Square headed up by Gillian Matthews, Scotland’s first female executive head chef at a five-star hotel; and Mezcal, a Mexican taqueria and bar on Hope Street.

While the overall volume of space leased, at some 65,000 square feet, was down 15 per cent from the previous year, the proportion leased to local independent operators rose from 36,000 sq ft in 2018 to about 40,000 sq ft in 2019, Savills noted.

The firm noted that demand from major national operators was also evident in 2019, despite the well-publicised troubles in Britain’s casual dining sector with a number of chains either failing or down-sizing.

The Ivy opened its doors on Buchanan Street in July, as part of the London-based group’s nationwide roll-out. Others with Glasgow openings included Nandos, German Doner Kebab, Benihana, Kokoro and Project Pizza.

Cautious

John Menzies, director in the retail team at Savills in Glasgow, said: “Independents have been more cautious around how quickly they grow, compared with some of the larger chains.

“For many independents, they have been priced out of premium rental locations and instead opted for quirky locations which are lower in rent, but still close enough to the centre to attract customers. As a result, many of these businesses have demonstrated positive turnover growth which has in turn encouraged more independent businesses to open.”

He added: “We expect to see another busy year for the casual dining sector leasing market in 2020, but the focus of demand is continuing to evolve in terms of property type, size and location.

“A number of interesting national brands are expected to open in 2020, including Franco Manca, Mowgli, Pho and Wolf.

“With margins tightening in the face of rising operating costs, savvy occupiers are now looking for smaller units of 1,500-3,000 sq ft, often in quirky locations and in buildings with architectural character.”

The pub sector is also expected to see growth in 2020.

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