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Mon 25th Feb 2019 - UK’s casual dining restaurant numbers drop for first time in nine years
UK’s casual dining restaurant numbers drop for first time in nine years while drink-led venue closure rate slows substantially: Britain’s supply of casual dining restaurants dipped for the first time in nine years in 2018 as a sustained decline in the wider licensed sector continued, the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners has revealed. The research showed Britain had 5,780 managed restaurants in December 2018 – 27.3% or 1,241 more than five years ago. However, casual dining brands now appear to have peaked, with numbers slipping by 0.1% from December 2017. The news follows rising concerns about overcapacity in the restaurant sector as well as mounting pressures on property, people and food costs, and Brexit-related dents to business confidence. The Market Growth Monitor reveals important nuances in the fortunes of managed restaurants around Britain. Outside the M25 there was a 0.9% drop in the total in the year to December 2018 – but inside it there was a 1.5% rise. High streets saw managed restaurant numbers dip 1.1% year-on-year, while suburban areas recorded 2.2% growth. There is better news for pubs and bars, especially those generating the majority of sales from drinks. The closure of wet-led pubs and bars has averaged 3.6 a day in the past five years but in the past 12 months the pace has slowed substantially, to 2.2 a day. The statistics follow a strong 2018 for many pub operators on the back of hot summer weather, the Fifa World Cup and the rising popularity of drinks. CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “The boom in managed restaurants has been one of the British economy’s great success stories of the past decade. However, after a string of closures and company voluntary arrangements in the casual dining sector in the past 12 months, the sector is now in net decline – albeit a very modest one. We can expect to see further contraction in numbers over the course of 2019. Many casual dining brands continue to thrive and we are seeing continued strong growth for small and medium-sized groups in particular. With consumer drinking trends working in the sector’s favour and food-led pub operators facing the same challenges as managed restaurants, the outlook for drinkers’ pubs is better than it has been for a long time.” AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “The more positive outlook for pubs and bars is reflective of the buoyant mergers and acquisitions activity in the sector. This reflects not only the saturation of certain parts of the restaurant market but also the combination of reduced supply and the continued rise of quality wet-led pub and bar operators.”

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