New research from CGA Peach found that growth in openings over the past 10 years has been nearly as steep in Manchester (17%), Liverpool (15%), Leeds (14%) and Cardiff (13%) as in London (19%).
The research firm said the situation is more “nuanced” than the stereotypical north/south divide, with big cities bucking this trend, although overall the decline in licensed premises has been more stepper outside the M25.
In every city survey, food-led openings have far exceeded those of their wet-led counterparts as branded chains stepped up their national expansion. In London, 37% of new openings between 2003 and 2013 have been food-led, against just 1% for wet-led. In Manchester, the split is 55%/9%, and in Liverpool it’s 39%/13%.
Total numbers of licensed premises in town centre have fallen by 9% over the last 10 years, with the suburbs down 20%, but city centre numbers have risen by 8% on the back of new openings.
High street decline
CGA Peach said: “That mirrors a more general decline in the public’s use of smaller high streets, thanks in part to the rise of online shopping. But it has also helped to create vibrant city centres around the UK that have become even more compelling destinations for eating and drinking as well as shopping.”
While drink-led venues fell 15,000 over the 10 years, the number of food-led outlets grew by 6,000 during that period. Food-led managed pubs and restaurants have been the biggest winners of all over the last ten years, with their numbers rising by 39%, compared to an 18% fall in the number of leased pubs.
Last year alone saw 9% growth in restaurant openings, driven in part by recoveries in the economy and consumer confidence.
The research also confirms the rise of “hybrid”-style formats. Openings in this category have grown 80% over 10 years, and have accounted for 11% of all growth in that time.
Jamie Campbell, senior account manager at CGA Peach, said: “Much has been made of the decline in drinking pubs over the last decade, but that only tells a small part of the story.
“Our figures show that managed, branded and food-led pubs and restaurants are thriving, and are helping to make cities around the country, and not just London, exciting and dynamic places to be. They suggest that as the economic recovery continues to gather momentum, pub and restaurant operators have plenty of reasons to look forward to the years ahead.”