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East Anglia Future 50

Restaurant numbers soar with 'explosion' of new entrants

PUBLISHED: 17:03 14 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:03 14 May 2018

Cousins Robert and Oliver Paul at The Cookhouse restaurant, at Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Cousins Robert and Oliver Paul at The Cookhouse restaurant, at Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Archant

Running a restaurant is tough, but a host of new outlets, including in East Anglia, have sprung up since the end of the recession, new figures show.

Diners at the Cookhouse restaurant at Suffolk Food Hall. Picture: SU ANDERSONDiners at the Cookhouse restaurant at Suffolk Food Hall. Picture: SU ANDERSON

The number of restaurants 
in England has increased by almost 3,000 since 2009, despite a spate of recent high-profile closures.

A study by lending platform Lendy found there were 25,070 restaurants, up from 22,230 in 2009, following rapid expansion by high street brands and an “explosion” of new entrants.

Liam Brooke, co-founder of Lendy, said: “In the last few years, appetite for new restaurant openings has seemed insatiable.

“Now we are seeing a period of adjustment where many well-known brands are restructuring their businesses and re-evaluating their strategies and many independents are struggling to compete.”

Philip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, a restaurants, pubs and hotels business. Picture: THE CHESTNUT GROUPPhilip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, a restaurants, pubs and hotels business. Picture: THE CHESTNUT GROUP

Robert Paul, along with cousin Oliver, took the plunge into the restaurant business in 2012 with the opening of The Cookhouse at Wherstead, near Ipswich. He admits the current climate is “challenging”.

“I think there is a genuine trend towards eating out and people cooking less and having more meals out, an at all levels from café up to full dining,” he said. “The chains have definitely tried to de-skill elements of their business because of the lack of skills available in the food services industry. They have built central kitchens which does give them an advantage over the independents.” But the rise of local restaurants was “great”, he said.

“I’m not a great fan, as you would expect, of the ‘McDonaldisation’ of offering. I like the fact you can go anywhere in the world and find something that’s different and individual to the area. I hope they succeed and we support them because otherwise we move towards a homogeneous and slightly bland environment.”

Philip Turner, who launched independent restaurants, hotels and pub business The Chestnut Group in 2012, said the rise in restaurants was led predominantly by the chains, but consumers were increasingly preoccupied with provenance and authenticity, which favoured the independents. Mr Turner, whose group includes The Northgate at Bury St Edmunds, The Packhorse Inn, Newmarket, and The Black Lion at Long Melford, said it was a complicated business, with “a lot of moving parts”.

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