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The Rise of the Independent Restaurant

As the (seemingly never-ending) Brexit uncertainty continues to affect several different industries, there is one surprisingly resilient sector that appears to be flourishing: independent restaurants. But why should this be? Aren’t we seeing a near-constant forecast of doom and gloom in the papers?

Part of the answer lies in the use of merchant cash advances by independent restaurants as a growing trend. One financial provider has seen a “100% increase in demand for its services so far in 2019, as restaurants and pubs seek cash advances to expand, refurbish, redevelop and invest in equipment, staff and training, and to help with working capital and VAT payments.”

According to statistics, 1.7 million people in the UK visit a restaurant at least once a week and the type of eatery they’re seeking out is changing. Independent pubs and restaurants can offer local produce and personal touches that chains simply don’t have. It may be this exact feeling giving them the edge over their more corporate counterparts.

A new report in The Independent seems to support this, with data from over 100 councils nationwide showing almost two-thirds of change-of-use applications in 2018/19 requested to convert a shop to another category such as restaurant, takeaway or office. The high street, though losing boutiques and other shops seems to be playing host to more eateries than ever.

There are a reported 404,000 businesses found on 7,000 high streets in 2019, which is down from 412,000 five years earlier. And, although London and the North West still represent an exception, most of those closures are shops rather than restaurants - though restaurants are admittedly not totally immune. 

Again, it seems that those restaurants affected are of the chain variety, with the article citing Byron, Jamie’s Italian, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Carluccio’s as some of the casualties. Delivery apps also play a part in this equation and the amount of people ordering in rather than venturing out is considerable - especially considering the breadth of places that offer delivery now.

All this seems to show that there will always be a place for original concepts and interesting propositions in bricks and mortar dining establishments. The trends may fluctuate, but the hunger remains. 2019 just so happens to belong to the independents.

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