Northern cities take the lead with independent restaurant boom

Sticky Walnut, Chester - Chef Gary UsherCITIES in the North are leading the growth of independent restaurants – despite consumer fears of increasingly homogenised high streets and the march of chains.

Research commissioned by Northern Restaurant & Bar (NRB) has tracked the number of independent restaurants – those having only one or two sites – in the UK’s major city centres over the last three years and produced unexpectedly upbeat results.

Thom Hetherington, CEO of NRB, said “Despite high streets having a torrid time the figures clearly show consumers are hungry to support smaller local restaurant operators, with the North performing particularly well.”

He said that visitor registration to this year’s NRB being held at Manchester Central on March 21 and 22 was at record levels, “demonstrating the confidence and ambition of operators in the regions.”

The research, produced in partnership with CGA, the leading hospitality data and insight company, classed independents as operators having less than three sites, and focused on cities with over 100 independent restaurant sites.

It showed Leeds and Newcastle leading the way with a 12.8% increase in the number of independent restaurants at each location.

In the North West, the relatively mature restaurant city of Manchester showed a 3.1% growth and Liverpool at 6.5% was only just behind the 7.4% in London.

“I couldn’t have opened restaurants in London as I have in the North of England,” said Gary Usher, chef patron of Sticky Walnut in Chester, Burnt Truffle in Heswall, Hispi in South Manchester and soon-to-open Wreckfish in Liverpool.

“The economics and audiences are different, and that gave me the opportunity.”

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