American invasion: US-style restaurants on the cusp of UK boom

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

American-style dining set to dominate UK restaurant openings

Related tags: Smoking, Restaurant

American-style smokehouses, barbecue pits and burger bars are on track to replace Mexican outlets as the biggest area of growth in the UK restaurant scene over the next few years.

According to Horizons' latest Ones To Watch report, US-themed outlets were among some of the fastest growing brands of the last three years.

Dunkin’ Donuts topped the list after expanding from one to 20 sites, while Red’s True Barbecue was joint sixth with Grillstock Smokehouse after growing from one to six and one to seven sites respectively.

Coast To Coast, the Restaurant Group-owned outlet, has 21 sites with another four planned to open this year.

“American casual dining certainly isn’t new to the UK but we are seeing a steady resurgence in its popularity as operators have modernized and upgraded the concept,” said Horizons' analyst Nicola Knight.

“They appeal to a broad range of consumers, are good value, [and] often offer a broad range of dishes of various cuisines, with friendly service and sophisticated marketing.”

American dream

American-style outlets have also been attracting the attention of investors and larger operators due to their vast roll-out potential.

Red’s True Barbecue recently secured £5m-worth of investment,​ while Fulham Shore - owner of the Real Greek and Franco Manca chains - has agreed a franchise agreement​ with charcoal grill specialist Bukowski Grill.

US-style concepts The Mac Factory​, Liberty Cheesesteak​ and Melt Room​ all opened in London last year, while barbecue restaurant Red Dog Saloon is launching a series of regional sites in 2016.

Mexican fade?

While Mexican restaurants were the growth story of the past few years the boom appears to have slowed, with few new concepts emerging while the ‘main players’ such as Wahaca continue to expand.

Horizons’ latest list of ‘Bubbling Under’ brands – featuring operators with less than five outlets but plans to expand - includes nearly 70 concepts offering American-style dining. 

“This means there will be a lot of competition amongst these players, particularly when it comes to sites,” said Knight.

“Typically only three or four will emerge as true high street brands with the staying power to survive and there’s likely to be mergers, and even closures, while others fail to expand as intended.” 

Related topics: Trends & Reports, Restaurant

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