The Decline of the High-Street Chain Restaurant

Sarah Gregory


Over the last five years we’ve seen a sharp change in the way people are eating out. Pre-Brexit restaurant chains were opening fast, across the country. But most recently we’ve seen a high-street cull. The bubble most certainly burst for brands like Jamie Oliver, GBK and Carluccio’s.

Even the golden child – Pizza Express – has faced financial difficulties and crunch talks with creditors to the alarm of the British public, who have grown up with this iconic brand. Perhaps it’s true that by monetising the brand and making it available to buy in every supermarket across the UK made it a less special family treat? And have you ever dared eat out at Pizza Express without a deal – it costs a fortune!

Times are hard and rather than eating out on a regular basis this is now a real treat, and people want to go somewhere new, unique, or family run. We are starting to see a swathe of new brands opening in our shopping centres that are either totally unique to the UK or have a real family-feel. Circolo Popolare recently opened in Fitrovia and it is a bloggers dream. Great food, unique, affordable prices and photo opportunities EVERYWHERE. And it is packed – you can’t get a table without queuing in the rain for an hour. And people are into it.

People are more than ever conscious of what they are putting in their mouth. Organic, local, vegan, booze-free, gluten free and fresh – they want to know where their cow was reared and where their tomatoes were grown. The likes of Daylesford Farm have become one of the coolest places to spend time at the weekend and it’s synonymous with this new cleaner and more environmentally conscious lifestyle everyone wants to lead. In one of our schemes in Banbury, an exciting food provenance offer is set to launch in the New Year which should give people living in the Cotswolds exactly this. The likes of Nando’s and Wagamamas are still a firm favourite with the British public but I’ve started to hear people talk about how Nando’s sources its produce – brands can’t get away with what they used to anymore.  Organic is expensive and not affordable to everyone but people are starting to grow their own fruit and vegetables. The popularity of having an allotment, or growing your own produce in your back garden, is growing at a massive rate and I have no doubt this will only get more and more popular in the coming years.

Classier fast food is also getting more popular. Slim Chickens just opened at The Brunswick which offers posher fried chicken and it is performing incredibly well. Interestingly it also has that unique factor, with fewer than five stores in the UK. We also know that some iconic US brands will be opening in the UK soon that feel more special then the well-known brands we’ve come accustomed to in the last 5 – 10 years – Taco Bell anyone?

There is no doubt even more will change in the coming 12 months but I’m really excited to see how the food provenance market develops and whether we all start growing our own fruit and veg – I certainly will be!

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