Northern cities see independent restaurant boom

Picture of Newcastle city
  • North and other regional cities offer entrepreneurs more affordability than London.
    Manchester reaches restaurant maturity as indie operators move to the suburbs.
    Newcastle and Leeds see a boom in independent restaurants.

CITIES in the north such as Newcastle and Leeds have seen a boom in independent restaurants with growth rates far outstripping traditional hotspots such as London and Edinburgh, new research reveals.

House of tides newcastleThe research, commissioned by Northern Restaurant & Bar show (NRB), tracked the number of independent restaurants – those having only one or two sites – in the UK’s major city centres over the last three years.

NRB ceo Thom Hetherington said:  “The figures clearly show consumers are hungry to support smaller local restaurant operators.”

The research, produced in partnership with hospitality data and insight company CGA, classed independents as ‘operators having less than three sites’, and focused on cities with ‘over 100 independent restaurant sites’.

Leeds and Newcastle lead the way with a 12.8% increase in the number of independent restaurants. The cities also have strong business communities and have thriving universities.

Leeds, in particular, has actively nurtured its start-up restaurant scene with the Independent Food and Drink Academy offering support and advice and the successful Leeds Indie Food festival giving entrepreneurs a platform to promote themselves.

leeds genericMatt Dix, director of the Leeds Indie Food festival, said: “We’re seeing diverse and unique new openings all the time, and we get a real buzz from being able to show off new independent talent.”

Hetherington added: “London still stands apart in terms of the scale and depth of its restaurant scene, but escalating costs mean the regions and the North in particular now offers genuine opportunity for ambitious operators.”

Sheffield, less affected by an influx of national chains, also performed well with 8.5% growth, Glasgow sat at 8.2% beating London’s 7.4%. Liverpool was close behind on 6.5%.

Although not included in this specific survey, Hetherington confirms, smaller Northern cities also performed well, with Sunderland and Hull topping the overall national charts with incredible growth rates of 23.4% and 17.2% respectively. Hull has benefited after being awarded the UK City of Culture 2017.

The relatively mature restaurant scenes in Edinburgh and Manchester offered less opportunity for independents with only 1.6% and 3.1% growth respectively. However, the   two cities had the largest independent restaurant scenes outside London, with almost twice as many sites as the other largest provincial cities.

Jamie Campbell, director of CGA Peach, said:  “Manchester is interesting, in that its city centre restaurant scene, covered by this survey, has surged hugely in the last decade. The scene is still incredibly dynamic and many ‘independent’ operators have now grown to encompass five or more sites.

“The increased costs and a lack of available sites mean the current generation of entrepreneurial chefs and restaurateurs are looking to the suburbs for affordable opportunities.”

The Northern Restaurant & Bar hospitality show returns to Manchester Central on 21-22 March for its 17th year. The show will include 300 exhibitors, 7,500 industry professionals and includes the NRB Debate (21 March) and the prestigious NRB Top Fifty Awards.

Three Year Growth in Number of Independent* Restaurants in Major** UK Cities

  • Leeds 8%
  • Newcastle 8%
  • Nottingham 5%
  • Cardiff 6%
  • Leicester 3%
  • Birmingham 7%
  • Sheffield 5%
  • Glasgow 2%
  • London 4%
  • Bristol 2%
  • Liverpool 5%
  • Manchester 1%
  • Southampton 5%
  • Edinburgh 6%
  • York 9%

*Operators with <3 sites **Cities with >100 independent operator sites each year

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