'Globalisation' of UK food scene drives chain operator growth

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Chains offering a wider variety of cuisine have expanded rapidly in the last five years
Chains offering a wider variety of cuisine have expanded rapidly in the last five years

Related tags: Fast food, Restaurant

The rise of street food and the ‘globalisation’ of the UK restaurant scene have led to the unbroken growth of chain operators over the last 17 years, according commercial property and real estate services advisors CBRE.

The number of restaurants and food outlets has risen by 258 per cent since 1998, with a total of 17,450 chain branches in operation across the country.

Mexican and world cuisine sites have driven the majority of growth in the last five years, while the expansion of more traditional offerings such as steak and Italian has slowed.

“In recent years there has been extraordinary diversification in the restaurant sector driven by the demand for new types of cuisine and the changing eating patterns fuelled by the rise of street food vendors.” said Seb Howard, head of central London leisure at CBRE.

"These trends have injected vibrancy into the market and seen restaurateurs capitalise on the increased availability of premises and floor-space left by other shop operators closing their doors."

Burritos are in, Italian out

Mexican burrito restaurants such as Barburrito and Chilango have grown at the fastest rate of any cuisine over the last few years, with an average annual growth rate of 57 per cent since 2009.

Mixed world cuisine outlets, such as Giraffe, have grown by an average of 40 per cent per year over the last five years, while natural health food operators such as Leon have grown by 15 per cent.

While Italian chain restaurants are the largest in terms of the number of branches (817 across the UK), the average growth in numbers has been limited over the last five years to five per cent.

Steak restaurants seen average annual growth of just one per cent over the same period, while specialist fish restaurants have seen falls in branch numbers with average annual growth of -3 per cent.

Nigel Costain, head of leisure, development and leasing at CBRE, said that brands needed to cater to different customer expectations.

He said: “The variety and quality of the food on offer has increased markedly and created an expectation among consumers that this quality and variety should be replicated in a restaurant environment."

The British out-of-home foodservice market was worth £50.7bn at the end of 2014, with chains accounting for £27.5bn.

BigHospitality previously reported that cost-conscious consumers are increasingly shunning independent restaurants​ in favour of better perceived value at multi-site operators.

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