British diners demand ‘fresh flavours’ eating out

Opening soon in Liverpool...picture courtesy of Rosa

Travelling Brits opt for bold spicy flavours when eating out

THAI, American, Mexican and Japanese managed restaurants have soared during the past five years, while Chinese and Spanish restaurants appear to be on the decline, according to a CGA report.

The Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, the quarterly review of licensed premises in Britain, revealed the number of overall managed restaurants is in decline for the first time in 14 years.

Bucking the trend; Thai managed restaurants have more than doubled in the five years to December 2018 – leaping 123% from 66 to 147 following the rise of brands such as Giggling Squid and Rosa’s Thai Cafe, as well as smaller operators.

The data, tracking outlets that are part of a pub or restaurant chain rather than independents, reveals the number of American-themed restaurants jumped 73% from 535 in December 2013 to 925 in December 2018, with barbecue-style and burger concepts among the biggest drivers.

The CGA data surprisingly reveals the consumer focus on health-conscious food means outlets have seen a decline of 1.4% within the past year, although the report acknowledges Thai and Japanese food growth could be down to a perception that these Asian cuisines are healthy.

The number of Japanese sites climbed almost as fast, at 44% to 305, driven by sushi specialists such as YO! Sushi.

Mexican restaurants, meanwhile, rose 49% to 370 outlets thanks to the expansion of concepts such as Wahaca, Barburrito and Tortilla.

Picture courtesy of Wahaca Manchester

Market Growth Monitor figures also revealed steep rises in the number of Caribbean, Greek and Middle Eastern managed restaurants, although these were from much lower bases.

At the other end of the scale, CGA’s data showed a 44% five-year drop in the number of Chinese managed restaurant numbers to only 61, and a 26% dip in those specialising in Spanish food to 64.

“This is an example of the fast-changing tastes of British diners. As consumers broaden their horizons with travel they are discovering many new cuisines and bringing their appetite for fresh flavours back home,” said CGA business unit director for food and retail Karl Chessell.

“This trend is particularly obvious in the Asian sector, where food knowledge has gone way beyond Chinese and interest in Thai, Japanese and a repertoire of other cuisines is soaring. The healthy aspects of these foods may be another factor in their popularity.”

Picture courtesy of Yo Sushi!

The rise of managed Mexican restaurants shows the appeal of bold, spicy flavours. Many Mexican brands have also benefited from factors of convenience and location, which CGA data consistently show to be big drivers of restaurant choice.

Spanish food, meanwhile, has probably been another victim of the huge diversification of food tastes, although some Spanish brands continue to thrive.

“The Asian-led part of the restaurant market is of particular interest to investors given its current popularity among consumers and is ripe for further mergers and acquisitions activity,” said AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith.

Market Growth Monitor data showed Italian remains by far the most common type of cuisine in managed restaurants, with numbers rising 12% to 1,923 in the five years to December 2018. However, the figure has been trimmed by 4% in the past year as several Italian brands, including Jamie’s Italian and Prezzo, closed a large number of outlets as high streets neared saturation point.

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