The number of restaurants in Britain fell by 0.4% in the year to March, the equivalent of almost two closures a week.
The decline comes amid reports of oversupply and challenges faced by casual dining operators, following a sustained period of growth according to the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners.
Despite the decline in the past 12 months, the number of restaurants in Britain has grown by 15.6% since 2013.
CGA and AlixPartners predict a further retrenchment in restaurant numbers in the second half of 2018, although many casual dining brands continue to expand their estates around Britain.
CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “It has not been an easy year in the out-of-home eating and drinking out market, and this new data is an indication of the pressures that restaurant operators have been under. With over-supply becoming apparent, input costs still rising and Brexit causing uncertainty, we are likely to see a further restraint in new openings this year. But CGA research also shows that people continue to go out to eat and drink, and brands with strong differentiation and customer focus can continue to flourish.”
Across all licensed premises the monitor recorded a 1.3% fall in numbers in the 12 months to March 2018. This marks an acceleration in the pace of closures since the last edition, which recorded a year-on-year drop of 0.3%.
Despite the challenges a more positive picture was seen in several areas – especially major cities in the north of England. In Leeds, the number of food-led licensed premises rocketed by 37.9% in the five years to March 2018, with growth in Manchester at 33.6% and in Liverpool at 31.9%.
Data from CGA’s market leading sources has indicated that sales have remained broadly flat and despite rising food costs confidence among leaders of the out-of-home eating and drinking sectors is improving.
AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “As predicted in the previous edition of the Market Growth Monitor, the total number of restaurants in the UK has fallen for the first time, and we expect the decline to continue over the short to medium term as larger chains manage their site portfolios. This presents an opportunity for younger, growing concepts to expand, potentially at preferential terms or in locations that were previously reserved for the larger chains, which could help kick start their next phase of growth.”