Choppy conditions fail to deter overseas chains from pursuing London kitchen schemes

Choppy market conditions that have led to restaurant chains culling their estates this year do not seem to be putting off overseas rivals – no fewer than 36 international retail and leisure brands have opened their first ever UK outpost in London in 2018 to date.

The figure already exceeds the 2017 full-year total of 32, with the final number for 2018 likely to be in the region of 45, bringing it in line with the 2016 peak of 53, according to data released today by property agents Savills.

Four in every 10 new entrants to the London market this year have come from abroad, with overseas players still viewing the capital as a major growth opportunity despite concerns around high rents and competition.

International F&B operators such as Greyhound Café and BunCo are among those to have invested in London, while North American F&B concepts have also made a comeback, with five new entrants in the year to date, including by CHLOE., Which Wich and Inko Nito. Mark Wahlberg-backed Wahlburgers, meanwhile, is set to open its doors later this year.

There has also been an increase in interest and activity from Asia Pacific-based operators, with three new players in 2018, including Singaporean brand Old Chang Kee and Chinese hot pot chain Hai Di Lao.

Based on the known pipeline, 2018 will be a record year for new F&B international openings in London, with over 20 new brands, Savills said.

It pointed to forecasts that consumer spend on eating out in London will rise 8% over the next five years and the overall size of the market as major factors for the appetite shown by outsiders.

“Despite a number of well-publicised challenges facing the UK retail and leisure market currently, there can be no doubt that London’s appeal remains for international brands. In some cases these challenges are creating opportunities for new entrants. The strong momentum we have seen in new brands flocking to the capital so far in 2018 looks set to continue into the remainder of this year and beyond,” Savills stated.

Ironically, news of international operators’ interest comes despite Harden’s recently reporting the highest-ever number of London restaurant closures in the last 12 months. Some 117 restaurants had shut their doors at the last count, the highest since the guide was first published in 1991.

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