Thai and Japanese chains in UK soar while Chinese brands stumble

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Giggling Squid (restaurant interior pictured) is one of the leading Thai chains to expand in recent years
Giggling Squid (restaurant interior pictured) is one of the leading Thai chains to expand in recent years

Related tags Casual dining Restaurant chains Market growth monitor Thai cuisine Japanese cuisine American cuisine Mexican cuisine

Britain’s restaurant tastes are changing, with Chinese and Spanish cuisines losing out to Thai and Japanese in the branded space over the last five years.

That’s the key finding from CGA and AlixPartners Market Growth Monitor report, which reveals the number of Thai chain restaurants have more than doubled since 2013.

Another big winner are US-themed restaurants, whose number jumped 73% between 2013 and 2018, with barbeque and burger concepts among the biggest drivers.

But despite growth in these market segments, the research shows that the total number of chain restaurants is in decline for the first time in 14 years.  

CGA’s data shows that Chinese chains have dropped dramatically by 44% in the five years to December 2018, while the gradual downfall of La Tasca is the main reason for a 26% dip in Spanish brands

In comparison, Thai chains have made a 123% leap in the same timeframe, while the number of Japanese sites climbed by 44%. Both increases are said to have been driven by the expansion of brands such as Giggling Squid, Rosa’s Thai, Shoryu and YO! Sushi, as well as smaller groups.

CGA’s business unit director for food and retail Karl Chessell says the figures highlight the fast-changing tastes of British diners.

“As consumers broaden their horizons with travel they are discovering many new cuisines and are bringing their appetite for fresh flavours back home,” he says.

“This trend is particularly obvious in the Asian sector, where food knowledge has gone way beyond Chinese, and interest in Thai, Japanese and a repertoire of other cuisines is soaring. The healthy aspects of these foods may well be another factor in their popularity.”

Market Growth Monitor figures also reveal significant rises in the number of Mexican restaurants, up 49%, thanks to the expansion of chains including Tortilla, Wahaca and Barburrito.

“The rise of branded Mexican restaurants shows the appeal of bold, spicy flavours,” added Chessell.

“Many Mexican brands have also benefited from factors of convenience and location, which CGA data consistently shows to be big drivers of restaurant choice. Our new Business Leaders’ Survey tips premium fast food, flexible formats and street food style operators as likely to thrive in 2019—and Mexican food plays very well to all three segments.”

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