Tourism numbers are rising dramatically and London is set to become the most visited city in the world in 2014 (MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index). Understandably the capital's leisure sector has grown and new independent corporate brands emerged.
Outside of the Capital, the restaurant market has historically not demonstrated the same degree of acceptance towards new trends, but now change is in the air. In fact many new operations have established a foothold in the regions and are seeking to bring their brands of hospitality to the Capital. Living Ventures, the established northern based restaurant group, is a prime example of this.
The challenge is whether many of the more recent emerging brands coming out of London will flourish and survive in the smaller cities around the country. Can they adapt their concepts to a different demographic? The answer in most instances is yes.
There has been a shift in consumer demand, aligned with a recognition from operators of the potential that these cities present. The institutional landlords have also played a role through the development of shopping centres, many now boasting multi faceted leisure offerings with dedicated restaurant streets.
The Liverpool ONE scheme is a great example of this with record results for 2013. Sales from restaurants and cafes were up 13% year on year having attracted the likes of Bill's, Ed's Easy Diner and Byron. Leeds Trinity has also put itself on the map boasting 30 restaurants and cafes alongside its retail offering.
In many of these schemes, the flagship outlets are not just the usual parade of mass market brands. The likes of The Botanist and The Alchemist in Leeds have managed to rival their London equivalents with high quality design delivering attractive restaurants.
A similar success story can be found on the traditional High Street. Earlier this year, in Manchester, The French and Manchester House battled it out in the public eye aiming to become the city's first Michelin starred restaurant. Such innovative gastronomy and high calibre restaurants demonstrate the change in consumer preferences in recent years.
So clearly London is an expensive and highly sought after city that runs the risk of becoming overheated and over competitive, particularly for new start ups and independent restaurateurs.
Possibly for these reasons some operators have actively sought to either branch out or establish themselves in the smaller towns around the edge, a stance taken by fledgling casual Thai concept, Giggling Squid, which launched in Hove in 2009 and now stands at 10 sites spread across towns in the south of the country. Whilst it may look to tickle the boundaries of the Capital, it is yet to venture further in.
London will undoubtedly continue to retain its allure to the majority of new operators but as the smaller UK towns and cities continue to reinvent themselves, we'll see many more choosing to set up shop there instead of in the hotbed that is our Capital.