Restaurants ‘Taking Over High Streets’

Restaurants ‘Taking Over High Streets’

There’s been a lot in the news in recent months and years about the demise of the British high street. Stores are struggling and vacancy rates have reached their highest level in over four years, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

In fact, the BRC figures from July revealed that national town centre vacancy rates hit 10.3 per cent in July, up marginally from the 10.2 per cent recorded in the previous quarter.

Reduced footfall in high streets has been contributing to the closure of a growing number of retailers, while Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said that the government should look at lowering business rates to help struggling retailers.

“High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty storefronts,” she asserted.

However, it seems that a growing number of independent restaurants are taking up spaces vacated by retailers.

Real Business recently highlighted figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed that restaurants and takeaways are increasingly replacing retail outlets on high streets across England and Wales.

The news provider shared detailed analysis of the figures by Direct Line for Business, which found that in 2018/19 61 per cent of all change of use applications were to change a shop into a different kind of premises.

What’s more, over one-third of all the applications for a change of use submitted to local authority planning departments were to change a shop to a restaurant, takeaway or cafe.

11 per cent, meanwhile, were for pubs or wine bars, and just six per cent were for financial or professional services.

An average of four shops close every day in the UK at the moment. There are approximately 7,000 high streets in the UK, with over 404,000 businesses based in these locations. That’s down from the 412,000 businesses that were based on UK high streets just five years ago.

Independent restaurants in particular are capitalising on the falling number of retailers on high streets and therefore the growing number of premises available.

Their success is being helped by closures among larger chains, such as Prezzo, Carluccio’s and Jamie’s Italian.

Andrew Raphaely, managing director at 365 Business Finance, told the news provider that restaurant owners have a better idea of what people are looking for and there are fewer such businesses failing as they test out new concepts.

“Independent restaurants are telling us that their customers value the personal approach, knowing that their food is locally sourced and that the restaurant is part of the community, not a corporate machine,” he asserted.

Cato Syverson, CEO of Creditsafe, a UK credit check specialist, said that independent restaurants have the ability to make a dent in the market at the expense of large chains.

“As well as the economic challenges surrounding Brexit, we are seeing more consumers choosing to shop and eat local to support smaller independent businesses and this is noticeably eating into the already fine margins of major restaurant groups,” he asserted.

Although the latest research appears to show that the growth in the country’s food and drink market is slowing down, growth is still forecast in the UK’s eating and drinking out market this year, Big Hospitality reported.

This sector is expected to grow by 1.3 per cent in 2019, reaching a total value of £91 billion. However, this is the slowest growth experienced in the eating and drinking out sector in seven years, the MCA Insight UK Eating Out Market Report 2019 revealed.

One thing that restaurants need to watch, however, is the fact that the average frequency of visits to eateries has fallen by one per cent in the past year. Menu price inflation has led to a two per cent rise in average consumer spend though.

The study notes that offering a high quality product and service is essential for any business’ survival at present, with consumers increasingly discerning about where they choose to spend their money.

There are some surprising changes you could make to your restaurant, cafe or bar to improve its performance though. A survey recently by Global Wireless Solutions and shared by ISPreview found that poor mobile connectivity had affected some people’s experiences in certain restaurants.

In the poll of 2,000 people, some 11 per cent claimed that their experience at a restaurant had been “ruined” because the mobile signal was bad.

What’s more, 18 per cent expect restaurants to offer free WiFi as standard. Having a strong and reliable wireless connection for guests to use could make a difference to a cafe or restaurant’s bottom line, especially if they’re in an area that has poor mobile phone coverage.

Given that over one-quarter (26 per cent) of the Brits surveyed regularly browse the internet while eating dinner, it would certainly appear that having a reliable internet connection would benefit eateries.

It’s important to make sure your business stands out from any others in your local area. Real Business pointed out that although independent restaurants, cafes and bars are doing better than retailers, the market is becoming increasingly saturated and they need to have real staying power to be able to survive in the long term.

If you’re setting up a new restaurant, cafe or bar, there are a range of things that you need to consider besides the strength of your wireless connection. Making sure you and all of your staff have the right training in food hygiene and safety is essential.

If you’re planning to serve alcohol on your premises, you’ll also need to have awareness of the CIEH licensing laws. These cover your minimum responsibilities and requirements as a business that serves alcohol, as well as looking at the effects of alcohol consumption.

For anyone who intends to apply for their personal licence to serve alcohol, going on a course that covers the basics of the UK’s licensing laws is an essential first step.