New, innovative operators are likely to open in areas outside city centres, as the market for central units “contracts”, according to Living Ventures chief executive Tim Bacon.

Speaking at a debate during the Northern Restaurant & Bar show in Manchester, Bacon said the past five years have been “incredible fertile for the industry”, with smaller operators able to secure central locations as large companies cut back on openings.

“That will contract. It will become more difficult for these smaller operators to find great sites in city centre locations,” said Bacon.

“Some of the less likely areas are the areas where people will go to and where the innovation will come from.”

Also at the debate, Marcello Distefano, managing director of the 15-strong family-owned Italian restaurant group San Carlo, said landlords are getting more “selective” about which concepts they take.

“Landlords are changing,” he said. “They are having lot more input in what they create, especially in the new shopping centres.

“They have a vision of what they want to create and they are being more selective about what brands they want to have in there.”

Distefano said landlords will now “stop brands coming in, whereas in the past they were just selling space”.

He said that previously, San Carlo would look for a site for a particular concept, but now the level of competition means the group would now take a unit and identify a suitable concept afterwards.