Closures Slow After Britain’s Licensed Premises Drop Below 100,000

Britain’s number of licensed premises has fallen by 3.6% over the last 12 months to 99,916 sites, according to the latest Hospitality Market Monitor from CGA by NIQ and AlixPartners.

The total at the end of September 2023 marks the first time it has dropped below 100,000 in the Monitor’s history. The 3,766 drop over the 12-month period is equivalent to more than ten net closures every day.

However, the pace of venue failures has slowed as the year has gone on. The Hospitality Market Monitor recorded a fall in licensed premises over the third quarter of 2023 of only 0.3%—equivalent to just under three net closures a day.

The report from CGA and AlixPartners flags a particularly robust quarter for the managed hospitality sector. In the three months to September 2023, this segment achieved 0.5% growth, in contrast to a 0.6% drop in the number of independently-run venues. Many of Britain’s biggest city centres also saw a net quarter-on-quarter increase in sites, including London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “It is pleasing to see a slowdown in closures over the third quarter of 2023, though whether it is the beginning of a sustained positive trend or a lull remains to be seen. High inflation and interest rates are keeping a lid on consumer confidence, but the healthy growth in venues from multi-site managed groups is a positive sign of confidence from business leaders and investors. Despite the contraction in size in recent years, the long-term outlook for hospitality remains very good.”

Graeme Smith, AlixPartners’ managing director, said: “While it is never nice to see the number of licensed premises in the UK continue to fall, what the figures don’t show is that, whilst the sector has contracted overall, this masks an evolution of the market as it has become more varied and more innovative. In addition, the standard of offer across the full spectrum of the hospitality industry has never been higher. Recent figures show that the contraction in site closures has slowed, this comes after a period of significant estate consolidation. It also marks a period when many operators have tentatively returned to the expansion trail, coupled with the continued entry of new concepts and international brands into the sector. If consumers continue to spend on hospitality and experiences in the face of more challenging economic conditions, we could see site numbers begin to expand again in 2024.”