Walk down any high street in the country and you can be almost certain of finding at least a small selection of restaurants. Not only has eating out become a staple leisure activity for the UK population, but it’s also one of the most popular dream businesses. Individuals who ordinarily wouldn’t have the slightest inclination to run their own business are drawn to the glamour of the restaurant trade, either through a passion for cooking or a love of playing the host.
The reality of running a restaurant is a harsh one however. Make no mistake, it’s extremely hard work. And with so much competition around, if you don’t get the founding principles spot on, you’ll struggle. But if the idea of being surrounded by food, providing excellent service, seeing people enjoy themselves and being at the heart of the community is your idea of heaven, then the restaurant trade could be just right for you.
Research from the British Hospitality Association (BHA) states that, in 2009, there were 27,502 restaurants across the UK, 350 more than in 2008; furthermore, there were 31,000 fast food outlets. Given that many other retail sectors have been ravaged by recession, these figures indicate that the ‘eat out’ industry remains robust and widely popular.
Of the 27,500 restaurants trading in 2009, almost 10,900 (42%), were classed by the BHA as ‘ethnic’ restaurants; this predominantly refers to cuisine from the Middle East, central and South America, Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Indian and Chinese food remains hugely popular; indeed these two cuisines accounted for a quarter of all new restaurants opened in 2007.
So what’s this industry worth? The British Hospitality Association estimates the number of meals served in UK restaurants to have reached a total value of £716m in 2009; for fast food outlets, the figure passed £2bn.
So while there are a few words of caution to be taken from these statistics, there’s also the suggestion that it’s a big enough pie for you to have a small slice.
For a more detailed guide to starting a restaurant check out the Startups.co.uk book Starting Your Own Restaurant, available from Crimson Publishing and Amazon