Opening boom spreads to regional towns

Claire Dodd

Claire Dodd

15 December 2015

The ‘boom’ of hospitality openings is spreading outside of city centres, with nearly two in three British towns having seen their numbers of pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs rise or stay the same in the last year.

According to figures released as part of the latest edition of the licensed trade’s Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach, the growth is being driven by casual dining restaurants in particular, with more than four in five towns – 203 out of 236 – increasing their number of food-led licensed premises over the year. Of the 236 British towns studied (each with more than 100 licensed premises), only 85 saw their stock fall in the year to the end of September.

CGA Peach vice president Peter Martin said the rise was proof that the licensed trade is back in growth after years of steady decline, mostly driven by the closure of drink-led pubs.

'This is more welcome news for the eating and drinking out sector,' he said. 'Our first Market Growth Monitor showed that many large UK cities are sharply increasing their numbers of restaurants and bars, and this latest data shows the pattern is fanning out to suburban and market towns too. It is particularly pleasing to see the growth extended well beyond London and the south east, with more and more operators recognizing potential in the regions. While capacity remains an issue, it is encouraging to see the sector firmly on the front foot.'

AlixPartners managing director Paul Hemming said: 'From Southport to Solihull and Stockton-on-Tees to Taunton, towns across the UK are registering growth in licensed restaurants. There are positive signs on drink-led venues too, with well over half of Britain’s leading towns showing at least flat drink-led site numbers. What is clear is that the general buzz around the quality of new offerings across the UK eating and drinking out market is set to continue.'

The report found Southport (pictured, top) and Solihull are the two large towns with the most new openings over the year, each growing their numbers by 4.1%. Taunton, Worthing, Cheltenham and Stockton-on-Tees all grew their numbers of licensed premises by at least 3%. Over a five-year measure Milton Keynes is the town with the fastest growth, increasing its number of licensed premises by 37% in the last five years.

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