Casual dining brands on the march as tastes change

Casual dining brands in the UK with under 25 sites have rocketed by almost 40 per cent over the past three years, opening some 500 new outlets, according to a new report.

Brands such as Cau are growing faster than larger rivals. Picture: Contributed

The study, by property adviser Savills, notes that the “significant growth” has been driven by the development of new concepts allied to a growing leisure market.

David Bell, head of leisure at Savills, said: “The significant growth by the smaller brands emphasises the development we’ve seen in new concepts.

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“These smaller chains have provided consumers with more choice and offered a point of difference in the market, and with this success it is driving them to open more sites around the country. Furthermore with the investment from private equity we could see more brands with the capital to grow.”

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The report also singled out Glasgow as very dynamic in the opening of new casual dining outlets – defined in the report as having more than two locations in city centres, leisure schemes or affluent market towns.

Savills’ study does not include pub chains, “more formal dining options”, or independents.

Gordon Nicolson of Savills Glasgow said: “The level of activity we’ve seen in Glasgow’s leisure market mirrors that witnessed nationally as society shifts towards convenience and opts to eat out instead of cooking at home.

“The variety of leisure options on offer has made eating out affordable and we’re seeing people do so three or four times a week.

“This change in lifestyle has created many new opportunities for leisure operators which in turn adds new life to the high street. Tertiary retail pitches, including St Vincent Street and Gordon Street, have been transformed into prime leisure destinations as a result.”

The research shows that smaller brands such as Wahaca, Franco Manca and Cau have grown faster than established large brands, adding 489 outlets (+39 per cent) in the past few years, compared to brands such as Pizza Express, Prezzo and Nando’s, which have opened 297 (+13 per cent).

Savills highlights that 80 per cent of the casual dining market is made up of brands with fewer than 25 restaurants. It also says that North American, Caribbean and Thai cuisines restaurants have shown the greatest growth since December 2012, with 66 per cent of all North American restaurants opened since then.