It follows a catastrophic 2020, which saw outlet numbers fall by 17.1%.
The top 10 branded restaurants in the UK are forecast to experience an outlet decline of 2.2% in 2021, outpacing the overall segment.
This contrasts with last year, where the top 10 branded restaurants saw outlets shrink at a slower rate than the total branded restaurant space, at -12.9%; equating to a net loss of 280 sites.
Casual dining chains Wagamama and Nando's are expected to lead outlet expansion amongst branded restaurants in 2021, growing by seven and five sites respectively.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Pizza Hut Restaurants and Prezzo are set to see outlet decline accelerate, with the former closing 29 sites as part of a CVA agreement that will see the brand rationalising its estate as it looks to move further into delivery.
Prezzo, meanwhile, is to close 22 sites permanently following the company’s acquisition by private investment firm Cain International.
The Index notes that the high volume of empty properties now available is set to provide opportunities for stronger operators to take on attractive sites for more affordable prices.
“After an incredibly challenging year, we expect to see outlet numbers stabilise in 2021, with the branded restaurant segment emerging as a leaner but stronger channel with estates rationalised and strategies in place to evolve, aligned with post coronavirus consumer needs,” says Katherine Prowse, insight manager at Lumina Intelligence
“The growth of Nando’s and Wagamama highlights the opportunities available for branded restaurants that adapt and meet the needs of consumers. The growth of delivery will continue to put pressure on operators to rationalise estates, as well as business strategies, but as consumer confidence grows and restrictions ease, we expect to see demand for dine-in solutions return swiftly.”