The number of licensed premises in the UK fell 0.9% in the 12 months to June but managed restaurant groups continued to buck the trend, with site numbers up 5.6% year-on-year.
The latest quarterly Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach shows all areas of the UK saw a net decline in the number of licensed premises. The number of food-led sites grew in three out of ten regions – Anglia (+0.2%); Central (+0.7%) and Tyne Tees (+1.4%). Drink-led site numbers fell by 1% or more in all regions except Scotland (-0.5%). In London total sites were down 0.5%, food-led venues declined by 0.4% and there was a 1% drop in drink-led establishments.
However, there was a net addition of 284 restaurants over the year, equating to more than five new openings a week.
Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, said: “Small to medium multi-site operators have been particularly active on the openings front, with their dynamism in contrast to more staid, established independent operators, which have seen a decline in numbers. In the Asian arena, Thai brands like Thaikhun and Busaba Eathai and Vietnamese concepts like Pho have drawn trade away from traditional Indian and Chinese establishments.”
The monitor pointed out that the managed branded food pub sector had remained buoyant too, largely driven by the conversion of existing sites to food-focused formats
Overall, numbers of food-led pubs grew 2% to just under 10,500 in the year to June – with managed pub groups, and in particular branded concepts, leading the way with an 8.7% expansion in the last 12 months alone
Drink-led venue numbers fell by 1.6% in the year to June with the country’s overall supply of food-led licensed premises falling by 0.3%, due largely to a fall in numbers of independent single-site businesses.
“All eyes are on the licensed property market to track the restaurant and bar industry’s reaction to Brexit,” said Paul Hemming , managing director at AlixPartners. “While the numbers revealed in this latest edition of Market Growth Monitor capture site movements in the months up to the historic vote, everyone is waiting to get an understanding of the real impact of Brexit before recommitting to their rollout programmes.
“Trading immediately post Brexit appeared robust but competition remains intense. and the market will continue to monitor closely developments in consumer leisure spending. However, for operators the most pressing impact comes from the fall in the value of Sterling. Many menu items are imported, either from Europe or beyond and the Pound’s devaluation is likely to result in cost increases of the order of 15%, which will need to be built into site economics.
“Operators already absorbing the National Living Wage will inevitably take the opportunity to re-evaluate their plans. While many will remain committed to ambitious expansion programmes in the medium and longer term, everyone will be more cautious when evaluating new sites and current property deals. The Monitor had already seen a slowdown in the pace of new openings and Brexit uncertainty is likely to continue this trend.”