London is still the indisputable hotbed of eating and drinking in the UK, but growth in licensed premises is booming in other cities

Francesca Washtell
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London is still the nation's eating and drinking out capital

London is still the indisputable hotbed of eating and drinking out in the UK, but restaurant and bar operators are shifting their focus towards urban regional hotspots for new openings.

Food-led openings in the capital increased by 13.4 per cent over the last five years, though this trailed behind 22.4 per cent growth in other big British cities, according to quarterly figures released today by Market Growth Monitor, produced by AlixPartners and CGA Peach.

The number of licensed premises in Cardiff, Leeds and Liverpool have increased by more than a fifth over the last five years, while York, Newcastle and Manchester are not far behind.

Read more: Casual dining and pub grub drive new restaurant and bar openings

The capital does not even make the top 10, though its overall stock of licensed premises is still greater than the rest of the cities on the list put together.

City centres with the biggest growth in licensed premises in the last five years

City centre Increase in total sites
Cardiff 23 per cent
Leeds 22.3 per cent
Liverpool 20.8 per cent
York 19 per cent
Newcastle 17.9 per cent
Bath 16.9 per cent
Manchester 16.5 per cent
Southampton 15.2 per cent
Leicester 12.3 per cent
Norwich 12.2 per cent

"Growth in regional cities is in part a consequence of the toughness of the London market. With competition so fierce and property costs so high, established operators have been looking well beyond the capital for their growth opportunities," said CGA Peach director Jamie Campbell.

However, another underlying trend is big cities playing catch-up - although places like Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff are well-stocked with pubs and bars, their range of restaurants has, per capita, been way below that of London.

Read more: Drink up: Brexit could threaten the UK's wine industry

"With so many chains flocking in, the choice and quality of eating in these and many other cities is unrecognisable now from as recently as a decade ago. And with increasing numbers of people preferring to eat out than drink out, there is plenty of scope for this trend to continue," Campbell added.

"Regional cities will never have the same intense concentrations of restaurants as London, but there is no doubt that they are narrowing the gap with the capital."

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