"Casual dining crunch" set to continue, study warns

By Sophie Witts

- Last updated on GMT

"Casual dining crunch" set to continue, study warns
The UK’s biggest casual dining brands could face further closures in 2018 after over-expanding on the high street last year, a new study has warned.

According to the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, overall restaurant numbers rose 0.6% in the year to December 2017.

Britain now has 16.7% more restaurants than it did in December 2012. The number of licensed premises on high streets increased 0.6% in 2017, compared to declines of 0.8% and 0.2% in suburban and rural areas respectively.

The study warned of market saturation in towns including Solihull, Chelmsford and Milton Keynes – which saw a 28% rise in food-led licensed premises in 2017.

“Darlington, Shrewsbury and Loughborough have also seen a steep rise in new restaurants—although it could be argued that these towns were previously badly under-served by operators,” says AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith.

“At the other end of the spectrum, Oldham, Wrexham, Rotherham and St Helens have all seen a double-digit fall in licensed premises in the last five years. In all cases, most closures have been pubs rather than restaurants. For all brands, selecting the right towns for openings will be more important than ever."

The figures follow a spate of closures on the high street in the first quarter of 2018. Prezzo is to close 94 restaurants across four brands after its like-for-like sales dropped 8.1% in the year to December 2017.

Byron and Jamie’s Italian have also closed over 30 sites between them​ since January after creditors voted in favour of Company Voluntary Agreements at both companies.

“2018 is shaping up into a tough year for pub, bar and restaurant operators, and CGA’s Business Leaders’ Survey suggests we may not have seen the last of closures from some of our biggest casual dining brands,” says CGA vice president Peter Martin.

“Operators are reining in expansion plans and are predicting an increase in business failures. 

“[But] people are still going out to eat and drink, and operators who can deliver value for experience and select the right locations for their new openings can still thrive.”

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