The Market Growth Monitor, from CGA and AlixPartners, discovered that as of December 2017, there were 50,666 pubs and bars – a 1.7% drop from December 2016 and a 10.3% fall since December 2012.
This was similar for drink-led pubs and bars where, in December 2017, 32,688 sites were recorded – a fall of 1.9% since December 2016 and 16.9% since December 2012.
However, for food-led pubs and bars there was good news as, in December last year, the number was at 17,978 and while this was 1.3% less than 2016, it was up by 4.7% when compared with December 2012.
While overall, food-led pubs and bars were outpacing drink-led venues, when the data was broken down into the UK’s regions, the north of England region bucks this trend.
The number of pubs and bars in Britain has been in decline for many years, the Market Growth Monitor showed that as of December 2017, there were 5,849 (10.3%) fewer pubs and bars than five years before – equating to 3.2 net closures a day.
But there were signs that the downward trend was slowing as the rate of closures dropped back to 2.4 per day last year.
The cause of the revival of many pubs’ fortunes is food, the research stated. Britain had 4.7% more food-led pubs and bars in December 2017 than it did in December 2012 but 16.9% fewer drink-led ones.
The most successful part of the market has been branded food pubs, which have risen in numbers by 25.8% in five years.
This contrasts hugely with parts of the market like circuit bars (down 14.7% in five years) and community or drink-led locals (down almost one fifth at 17.7%).
But there are still signs that well-run drinking pubs with the right offer can still flourish in many parts of Britain.
There was a 0.2% rise in the number of drink-led licensed premises in the north of England last year – compared to a 0.6% decline in the south.
For the wider licensed trade, the survey found there were 122,221 pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed premises in December 2017 – 368 (0.3%) fewer than a year earlier or a net closure of one licensed premise a day.
It stated that given the headwinds that faced operators in 2017, including steeply rising property, people and food costs, it represents a better performance than many might think.
A breakdown by the Market Growth Monitor data by location found the number of licensed premises was rising in the high street but falling in the suburbs.
By December 2017, British high streets had 1,548 more venues (mostly restaurants) than five years earlier. However, suburban areas saw net closures of 2,527 sites in that time – more than one a day on average. Rural areas also saw a decline – though not as steep.
The past few months brought a host of news stories about casual-dining restaurants closures, with several big brands scaling back expansion plans.
Figures from the Market Growth Monitor showed Britain’s number of restaurants increased by 0.6% in 2017, and the total jumped 16.7% in five years.
A breakdown of licensed premises by TV region showed how London region’s number of food-led licensed premises (mostly restaurants) fell by more than 1.2% across 2017.
However, there was better news further north though with the Granada region increasing its total by 2.9%.
When it comes to London, the picture of new openings is very different between inner and outer areas. Licensed premises in the centre of the capital have risen by 7% over the past five years but by less than 1% in outer London.
Focusing on the 10 British towns with the highest percentage increase in licensed premises since December 2017: Solihull, West Midlands, topped the list with a 12.6% rise to 232 since five years ago.
Top 10 towns with the highest increase in licensed premises since five years ago:
Solihull, West Midlands – 232 sites, a 12.6% rise
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire – 378 sites, 11.5% rise
Chelmsford, Essex – 325 sites, 5.2% rise
Darlington, County Durham – 210 sites, 5% rise
Shrewsbury, Shropshire – 284 sites, 4.8% rise
Loughborough, Leicestershire – 249 sites, 4.2% rise
Bournemouth, Dorset – 527 sites, 4.2% rise
Southport, Merseyside – 251 sites, 4.1% rise
Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire – 288 sites, 3.6% rise
Colchester, Essex – 408 sites, 3.3% rise
This was followed by Milton Keynes in Buckinghamsire, which had 378 licensed sites, up by 11.5%. In third place was Chelmsford in Essex, which saw a rise of 5.2% to 325 since December 2012.
Licensed premises in numbers
However, it wasn’t all good news because the research also highlighted the 10 British towns with the highest drop in licensed premises since December 2012.
Coming in at number one was Oldham in Greater Manchester, which saw a fall of 16.8% to 328 sites. Wrexham in north Wales was second with 225 sites, a fall of 11.8%.
In third was Rotherham in South Yorkshire, which had 275 sites – a decrease of 10.4%.
Top 10 towns with the highest fall in licensed premises since five years ago:
Oldham, Greater Manchester – 328 sites, 16.8% drop
Wrexham, north Wales – 225 sites, 11.8% drop
Rotherham, South Yorkshire – 275 sites, 10.4% drop
St Helens, Merseyside – 211 sites, 10.2% drop
Torquay, Devon – 317 sites, 9.7% drop
Croydon, south London – 215 sites, 9.3% drop
Luton, Bedfordshire – 219 sites, 8.8% drop
Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire – 202 sites, 8.6% drop
Wigan, Greater Manchester – 365 sites, 8.1% drop
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – 330 sites, 7.6% drop
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “With some casual-dining operators announcing restaurant closures at the start of 2018, there has been much talk of oversupply in many of Britain’s cities and towns.
“But where exactly is supply exceeding demand? With consumer habits changing so fast, it can be hard to tell but the Market Growth Monitor shows some of the places that have been particular targets for new openings in the past five years.
“Top of the list is Solihull, where the Touchwood retail centre has been a magnet for casual-dining brands. Second and third are Milton Keynes and Chelmsford – both towns in which leading chains have announced closures lately.
“Milton Keynes has about 28% more food-led licensed premises than it did a year ago, and may well be at risk of saturation. Shrewsbury and Loughborough have also seen a steep rise in new restaurants although it could be argued that these towns were previously under-served by operators.
“CGA’s 2018 Business Leaders’ Survey indicates that some – though by no means all – casual-dining brands will be reining in their new openings plans this year and recent high-profile casualties are unlikely to be the last to close under-performing sites.
“For all brands, selecting the right towns for openings will be more important than ever.”
CGA vice-president Peter Martin said the coming year was shaping up to be tough for pub, bar and restaurant operators and the Business Leaders’ Survey suggested we hadn’t seen the last of closures from some big casual-dining brands.
He added: “Operators are reining in expansion plans and are predicting an increase in business failures. But our latest Market Growth Monitor is a reminder of the underlying strength of the sector, despite the perfect storm of challenges that has been whipped up.
“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.”