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Tue 26th Mar 2019 - CGA – consumers’ changing tastes prompt growth in Thai and American restaurants, managed numbers in decline
CGA – consumers’ changing tastes prompt growth in Thai and American restaurants, managed  numbers in decline: The number of Thai, American, Mexican and Japanese managed restaurants has soared during the past five years, while Chinese and Spanish restaurants appear to be on the decline. The figures have been announced as the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, the quarterly review of licensed premises in Britain, revealed the number of managed restaurants is in decline for the first time in 14 years. Thai managed restaurants have more than doubled in the five years to December 2018 – leaping 123% from 66 to 147 following the rise of brands such as Giggling Squid and Rosa’s Thai Cafe, as well as smaller operators. The data – tracking outlets that are part of a pub or restaurant chain rather than independents – reveals the number of American-themed restaurants jumped 73% from 535 in December 2013 to 925 in December 2018, with barbecue-style and burger concepts among the biggest drivers. Interestingly, CGA data reveals the consumer focus on health-conscious food means outlets have seen a decline of 1.4% within the past year. Mexican restaurants, meanwhile, rose 49% to 370 outlets thanks to the expansion of concepts such as Wahaca, Barburrito and Tortilla. The number of Japanese sites climbed almost as fast, at 44% to 305, driven by sushi specialists such as YO! Sushi. Market Growth Monitor figures also revealed steep rises in the number of Caribbean, Greek and Middle Eastern managed restaurants, although these were from much lower bases. At the other end of the scale, CGA’s data showed a 44% five-year drop in the number of Chinese managed restaurant numbers to only 61, and a 26% dip in those specialising in Spanish food to 64. CGA business unit director for food and retail Karl Chessell said: “This is an example of the fast-changing tastes of British diners. As consumers broaden their horizons with travel they are discovering many new cuisines and bringing their appetite for fresh flavours back home. This trend is particularly obvious in the Asian sector, where food knowledge has gone way beyond Chinese and interest in Thai, Japanese and a repertoire of other cuisines is soaring. The healthy aspects of these foods may be another factor in their popularity. The rise of managed Mexican restaurants shows the appeal of bold, spicy flavours. Many Mexican brands have also benefited from factors of convenience and location, which CGA data consistently show to be big drivers of restaurant choice. Our new Business Leaders’ Survey tips premium fast food, flexible formats and street food-style operators as likely to thrive in 2019 – and Mexican food plays well to all three segments. Spanish food, meanwhile, has probably been another victim of the huge diversification of food tastes, although some Spanish brands continue to thrive.” AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “The Asian-led part of the restaurant market is of particular interest to investors given its current popularity among consumers and is ripe for further mergers and acquisitions activity. There is more careful focus on what sets a brand apart from its peers and a clamour to acquire the best-in-class brand in each vertical and cuisine. We would expect to see private equity increasingly active in the segment of the market, following the consumer-led demand. Trade buyers may compete here to add Asian brands to their stable in the wake of the acquisition of Wagamama by The Restaurant Group. For the more established segments we would also expect more and more brands to turn their attention overseas to increase their expansion options.” Market Growth Monitor data showed Italian remains by far the most common type of cuisine in managed restaurants, with numbers rising 12% to 1,923 in the five years to December 2018. However, the figure has been trimmed by 4% in the past year as several Italian brands, including Jamie’s Italian and Prezzo, closed a large number of outlets as high streets neared saturation point.

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