British towns join openings boom

Nearly two in three British towns have seen their numbers of pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs rise or stay the same in the last year, the latest edition of the licensed trade’s Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach reveals.

The exclusive research shows that of 236 British towns with more than 100 licensed premises, only 85 saw their stock fall in the year to end-September. 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. 

The figures are more evidence that the licensed trade is back in growth after years of steady decline, mostly driven by the closure of drink-led pubs. Across the whole of Britain, the Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach measured a little over 124,000 licensed premises at the end of September—0.6% more than at the same point in 2014. This marks a slight slowdown in growth in the three months since the last Market Growth Monitor, but overall trends are broadly positive across the whole country. 

The latest findings follow figures in the first edition of the Market Growth Monitor that showed many cities have sharply increased their numbers of licensed premises. Other findings from the new research include:

•    Southport 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

•    Some large towns continue to see a decline in their numbers of licensed premises, with the north of England particularly affected. Burton-on-Trent, Oldham, Rotherham, Stafford and Barnsley have all seen their numbers of licensed premises fall by more than 10% in the last five years

•    Cities continue to attract new openings, with Coventry, Leicester, Cardiff, Exeter, Liverpool, Bradford and Bristol all increasing their supply of licensed premises by more than 5% in the last year

CGA Peach vice president Peter Martin said: “This is more welcome news for the eating and drinking out sector. 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: “The second instalment of the AlixPartners and CGA Peach Market Growth Monitor graphically illustrates that few corners of the land remain untouched by Britain’s eating out revolution. 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 AlixPartners and CGA Peach Market Growth Monitor is compiled quarterly from data supplied by CGA’s Outlet Index, a continually updated database of all licensed premises. For more information, contact CGA Peach account director Jamie Campbell at jamie.campbell@cgapeach.co.uk.
The Monitor is delivered in partnership with AlixPartners, the leading global financial advisory firm. Contact managing director Paul Hemming at phemming@alixpartners.com.