Restaurant chains fight to keep hold of West End sites bucking trading trend

One of the most influential landlords in London’s West End insists that restaurants and cafes are seeing ‘healthy trading’ as ‘exceptional’ footfall continues to shelter operators from the tough economic conditions experienced elsewhere.

Property owner Shaftesbury is the largest single provider of dining and leisure space in the West End, counting some 283 restaurants, cafés and pubs as tenants, many of them chain brands that serve an all-day, casual dining offer. Its ownerships include high profile and busy destinations such as Chinatown, Kingly Court, Neal’s Yard and the Opera Quarter.

In first half results released to the market, Shaftesbury said that business remains so good for foodservice operators that many are reluctant to give up their locations.

The company stated: “Despite a national slowdown in dining and leisure spending, we continue to see healthy trading across our areas. Availability of restaurant space in the West End is constrained by a restrictive planning environment, and the reluctance of existing occupiers to give up their valuable space other than for significant premiums.

“Against this backdrop of limited supply, occupier demand is good, with operators attracted by exceptional footfall, seven days a week, and a relatively affluent customer base. Competition for available space continues to be strong, and occupancy levels remain high.”

Shaftesbury said that as of 31 March, all its available-to-let restaurant, cafe and leisure space (ERV: £1.3m) remained under offer.

Meanwhile, it revealed that the 79 restaurants, cafés and bars it owns in Chinatown, close to the West End’s major entertainment venues, represent approximately one-third, by floor space, of its total ownership of these valuable uses.

“In this exceptionally busy location, notable for its long hours of trading, our strategy is to improve the variety of the dining offer, whilst maintaining its authentic Chinese and East Asian character and affordability,” it said. “We are taking opportunities, as they arise, to secure vacant possession of buildings and improve the layout of space on lower floors whilst introducing new uses on upper floors. Demand for this refurbished space is strong and is enabling us to introduce exciting, new concepts.”

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