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Thu 21st Sep 2017 - Small casual dining brands expanding six times faster than bigger names, price of bitter breaks £3 mark
Small casual dining brands expanding six times faster than bigger names: Small casual dining brands are expanding six times faster than bigger names in the sector, the latest Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach has revealed. Amid a broadly flat market for new openings and sales, restaurant groups with fewer than 25 sites achieved a 32% increase in premises in the past three years, compared with 7.6% for companies with more than 100 sites. Groups with between 25 and 99 sites increased their numbers by 47.7% during the period, more than six times the rate of large operators. The report said the figures were proof of the number of fresh and dynamic brands hitting the mainstream casual dining sector, naming Wahaca, Honest Burgers and Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho among companies expanding rapidly in the small-operator category, and Fulham Shore’s Franco Manca and Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas in the medium-sized sector. The report added that while some big operators such as Nando’s and Wagamama had continued to roll out venues, others had been scaling back openings. The disparity between new and established brands is particularly apparent in London, where medium-sized operators increased their number of licensed premises by 67.8% in the past three years, while large operators have seen a 4.3% fall. Overall, Britain had 122,916 licensed premises at June – 0.3% fewer than in June 2016. The bulk of net closures have been drink-led pubs and restaurants with only one site. There was a 1.8% net increase in restaurant openings in the past 12 months. CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “Our latest Market Growth Monitor reveals a casual dining sector in flux. Britain has a better and wider range of eating-out options than ever before, and dynamic new entrants to the market are simultaneously adding to the diversity and making life tougher for longer-established operators. Consumers still enjoy their big brands but the emergence of so many disruptive concepts is making it harder to secure their loyalty.” AlixPartners managing director Paul Hemming added: “The last 12 months have left the industry battling unprecedented levels of competition, unrelenting price pressures and an evolving retail market. As a result, casual dining chains have seen relatively little new investment activity, with many operators focusing on trimming tail sites from their estates instead. But despite these negative headwinds, small and growing innovative businesses continue to thrive across the country. Tired offerings that fail to evolve will have a limited shelf life but for emerging operators with a differentiated, consistent product, there will still be ample room to blossom.”

Average price for pint of bitter in Britain’s pubs breaks £3 barrier: The average price of a pint of bitter in Britain’s pubs has broken through the £3 barrier for the first time, with a 6p rise from last year to £3.05, according to the Annual Statistical Handbook published by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) today (Thursday, 21 September). The association said the figure fuelled concerns over Treasury plans to raise beer duty for a second time this year in the November Budget. Bitter’s 2017 price rise was the biggest since 2014, while the price of a pint of lager rose even more, by 10p to £3.58. Despite the increase, beer remains pub-goers’ drink of choice, accounting for 54.3% of alcohol sales in the on-trade in 2016, down from 55% in the previous year, making it particularly sensitive to beer tax hikes, the BBPA said. UK beer duty is 60% higher than in 2000 and among the highest in the EU. Britain has also seen a major leap in the number of breweries, which topped 2,000 for the first time in 2016 at 2,250, with 1,750 UK brewers launching since 2000. New figures show the UK’s average consumption of 67 litres per head is below the EU average (72 litres). BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We cannot afford another beer duty hike in the November Budget if we are to keep a pint in the pub affordable for British beer drinkers. However, a wealth of other data shows that with the right policies the beer and pub industry, which supports 900,000 jobs, can continue to help grow the economy, creating jobs and more opportunities.”

Leon launches autumn menu: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched its new autumn menu, which focuses on “meat as a side”. Leon said a survey had revealed 40% of its customers were making an effort to eat less meat. The menu features three new dishes, including a truffle mushroom burger. Leon will also launch its eighth cookbook, Happy Soups, written by chief executive and co-founder John Vincent, and food journalist and chef Rebecca Seal, on Thursday, 5 October. Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and Allegra McEvedy founded Leon in 2004, which now operates 53 restaurants. Last month, the company sealed a tie-up to expand in Norway and Sweden, with plans to open 20 sites in five years. The push followed a meeting between Vincent and Jens Ulltveit-Moe, whose company Umoe runs more than 360 venues in the region. Ulltveit-Moe took an undisclosed stake in Leon as part of its agreement to open restaurants across Scandinavia. In March, Leon sold a £25m stake to private equity house Spice as part of its efforts to accelerate international expansion.

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