The number of restaurants in Britain fell by 2.8% in the year to March 2019, equivalent to around 15 sites a week.
It marks the fifth successive quarter of decline in the sector, ending a five-year boom which saw the number of restaurants in the country rise by over 15% between 2013 and 2018.
Independents have born the brunt of closures, but group restaurants – managed sites from operators with more than one location – also declined by 1.1%.
Peter Martin, CGA vice president and contributing editor to BigHospitality's sister site MCA, says it is clear the 'gold rush' in the sector is over.
“Some distinctive and resolutely customer-focused restaurant groups continue to flourish, but for brands that have over-reached themselves or lost sight of their proposition and purpose, there are undoubtedly more tough times ahead," he says.
"Major challenges on British high streets, like rising costs and declining footfall, are adding another layer of difficulty.”
The pace of closures for group operators was higher in the south of England (2.8%) compared to the north (0.4%), which the report pointed to as sign restaurant levels had reached ‘saturation point’ in many southern areas.
Group restaurant numbers on high streets fell by 2.4% following a spate of closures by casual dining brands, with chains such as Byron, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Carluccio’s shuttering sites in 2018 citing tough trading, rising rents and rates and oversaturation in the market.
Jamie's Italian closed 12 restaurants last year, and the group confirmed today (21 May) it has appointed administrators.
But the report revealed some good news for pubs and bars, with the rate of closures falling from 31 a week three years ago to 13 a week in the past year. “With premium and all-day bars performing particularly well, it suggests that Britain’s long-term clear out of unsustainable pubs may be nearing an end,” the study says.