What cuisines are thriving in chain restaurants?

CGA and AlixPartners Market Growth Monitor Report has revealed how the British appetite is changing.

27 March 2019
image credit: Getty Images

  • The number of chain Thai restaurants has more than doubled over the past five years to December 2018, up 123% to 147 sites.
  • Japanese sites have climbed by 44% to 305 restaurants. Both the Thai and Japanese rises have been driven by the expansion of brands such as Giggling Squid, Rosa’s Thai, Shoryu and Yo Sushi, in addition to some smaller operators.
  • US-themed restaurants have also seen strong growth – up 73% to 925 restaurants since 2013 – but numbers declined by 1.4% in the past 12 months. Barbecue and burger concepts were the biggest drivers for American food.
  • Mexican restaurant chains have increased their numbers by 49% to 370, thanks to the expansion of Tortilla, Wahaca and Barburrito and the appeal of bold, spicy flavours.
  • Italian chains retain the largest presence in terms of branded restaurants, with overall numbers increasing by 12% in the past five years to 1,923, although a 4% dip was experienced over the last year following the closure of several Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian locations.
  • The CGA and AlixPartners’ figures also revealed steep rises in the number of Caribbean, Greek and Middle Eastern operators, although these were from much lower bases.
  • Chinese cuisine didn’t fare so well, however, with the number of branded sites down 44% over the past five years to 61 restaurants.
  • Spanish chain restaurants have also decreased in numbers by 26% to 64, attributed to the gradual downfall of La Tasca, as well as many world cuisines tapping into the small plate concept that was previously a USP of Spanish food.
  • Overall, the total number of chain restaurants is in decline for the first time in 14 years.
  • CGA’s new Business Leaders’ Survey also tipped premium fast food, flexible formats and street-food-style operators as likely to thrive in 2019.


CGA’s business unit director for food and retail, Karl Chessell, said the figures highlight the fast-changing tastes of British diners.

“As consumers broaden their horizons with travel, they are discovering many new cuisines and are bringing their appetite for fresh flavours back home,” he said. “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 well be another factor in their popularity.”

Want to see more?

Get inspiration and support for your NPD and menu development.
Food Spark supports busy food professionals, marketing and insight teams who work in retail, foodservice and manufacturing.

• Emerging ingredients & cuisines • Consumer behaviour trends • Pricing forecasts • Interviews with innovators • Hot topics and legislation • Nutritional expertise • New openings and more... 

See all that Food Spark has to offer by requesting a free no-obligation demo.


Add to Idea Book

"What cuisines are thriving in chain restaurants?"
Choose Idea Book