London is not the only driver of growth in the UK eating and drinking out market. Cities like Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool are also seeing big increases in new restaurant, pub and bar openings, according to research from out-of-home insight specialists CGA Peach.
With pubs evolving from drink to food-led businesses and branded restaurants becoming ever more popular, UK cities beyond London are playing a key role in that change.
Data from the CGA Outlet Index* uncovers a migration of openings away from towns and suburbs to the big cities. Total numbers of licensed premises, including pubs and restaurants, in town centre have fallen by 9% over the last ten years, with the suburbs down 20% – but city centre numbers have risen by 8% on the back of new openings.
That mirrors a more general decline in the public’s use of smaller high streets, thanks in part to the rise of online shopping. But it has also helped to create vibrant city centres around the UK that have become even more compelling destinations for eating and drinking as well as shopping.
The rise of the food and drink scene in these cities suggests that the much-discussed North-South divide in the UK might be more nuanced. Although the country outside the M25 has seen a much bigger decline in licensed premises than inside, big cities have bucked that trend. As CGA Peach’s data shows (see table below), growth in new openings over the last ten years has been nearly as steep in Manchester (17%), Liverpool (15%), Leeds (14%) and Cardiff (13%) as it has been in London (19%).
Senior account manager at CGA Peach Jamie Campbell said: “Much has been made of the decline in drinking pubs over the last decade, but that only tells a small part of the story. Our figures show that managed, branded and food-led pubs and restaurants are thriving, and are helping to make cities around the country, and not just London, exciting and dynamic places to be. They suggest that as the economic recovery continues to gather momentum, pub and restaurant operators have plenty of reasons to look forward to the years ahead.”
Overall, the research confirms the widely publicised story of closures in the drink-led pub sector, with their numbers falling by 15,000 in the last ten years. But it also reveals a very positive trend in the number of food-led licensed venues – which have increased by 6,000 in the same decade.
The decisive shift in emphasis from drink to food is confirmed by figures from different segments of the licensed market. Food-led managed pubs and restaurants have been the biggest winners of all over the last ten years, with their numbers rising by 39%, compared to an 18% fall in the number of leased pubs. Last year alone saw 9% growth in restaurant openings, driven in part by recoveries in the economy and consumer confidence.
Other trends emerging from the research include the rise of all-day, ‘hybrid’ style concepts that give customers the flexibility to eat or drink what they wish at any time of day or night. Openings in this category have leapt 80% in the last ten years, and have accounted for 11% of all growth in that time.