Food-led pubs on the rise

The latest Market Growth Monitor Report from CGA and AlixPartners also reveals a decline in the independent restaurant sector.

6 January 2020

  • UK restaurants have been in year-on-year decline for seven quarters in a row with numbers falling 2.4% in the year to September 2019 - a net closure rate of 12 sites a week and 633 for the whole of 2019.
  • Despite this, group restaurants (managed sites of operators with more than one location) increased in number by 0.3%.
  • The independent sector, however, has seen numbers fall at around 3% a year.
  • The rate of year-on-year pub closures is picking up to nearly 17-a-week over the 12 months to September 2019 with drink-led pubs bearing the brunt of the closures with an average of 19 closures-a-week in the last year.
  • However, food-led pubs have been in net growth over the 12 months at 1.3%. As with restaurants, groups are well ahead of independent operators in terms of openings.
  • Britain’s total pub numbers have fallen by around 11% in just five years - equivalent to more than 4,400 closures, or more than two a day.
  • A trend in managed pub models has led to a 0.3% increase in the number of food-led pubs and bars over the last five years - compared to a 15.3% fall in drink-led ones.
  • Across the high street segment, total licensed venue numbers have slipped by 2.0% in the last 12 months, compared to a 2.5% fall in suburban areas - though performing better than either of them is the rural segment of the market, with a net fall of 1.4%.


“While the overall number of restaurants has dipped further, the situation is not quite as gloomy as it seems, with a number of smaller restaurant groups continuing to expand site numbers,” says Graeme Smith, managing director of AlixPartners.

“There’s no doubt that some leading casual dining names have had a tough 2019, but one brand’s difficulty is another’s opportunity. With capacity having eased in recent months there is still a lot of opportunity for growth in casual dining—but only if the offer, execution and price are all spot on.”

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