Licensed premises fall 2.5% in one year

Britain has 3,116 fewer restaurants, pubs, bars and other licensed premises than 12 months ago, according to a report published this month.

Inns and pubs continue to account for the majority of closures, continuing the trend of the last few years, according to the latest edition of the Market Growth Monitor, which reveals there were 119,800 licensed sites across the country in June 2018, a fall of 2.5% since June 2017.

The data represents average net closures over the last year of around eight premises a day. The rate of closures has nearly doubled since the last edition of the Market Growth Monitor three months ago, when the year-on-year decline measured 1.3%.

Every part of the country has seen a decline, ranging from 3.4% in Wales to 1% in the West Midlands, with London seeing a 2.3% fall.

But the Market Growth Monitor also indicates that restaurant numbers are falling too. After a period of growth that has seen Britain’s total restaurants increase by 11% in just five years, numbers fell 1% in the 12 months to June 2018.

The findings confirm other recent CGA research revealing a host of challenges in the restaurant sector, including fierce competition, flat like-for-like sales and escalating input costs. The casual dining sector has seen a series of closures and CVAs from a number of high-profile names in the first half of 2018.

The Market Growth Monitor does reveals bright spots for openings – especially in northern city centres including Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, which all now have at least a fifth more licensed premises than five years ago. Operators are increasingly looking beyond London and the south east for openings, with the number of managed, branded restaurants outside the M25 increasing by 5.9% in the last year, compared to just 1.5% within it.

CGA vice president Peter Martin said: “Given the multitude of challenges facing the sector at the moment, it is no surprise to find that the pace of licensed premises closures is increasing. People continue to eat and drink out, and new and exciting restaurant, pub and bar brands are still achieving impressive growth. But competition from these dynamic start-ups, rising costs and the fickle nature of many consumers are combining to turn up the heat on established restaurant brands. In the current climate, standing still is simply not an option.”

AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “The Monitor tells the story of a market responding to current pressures. Restaurant expansion is still on the agenda for some companies, particularly in those locations across the UK that have previously been under-served by casual dining operators – but management teams and investors need to carefully consider their opening strategies. When it comes to pubs, operators with a well-executed food offer remain attractive, and those who add accommodation to the mix are under the spotlight of investors looking to businesses with more diversified revenue streams and broader trading windows.”