John Menzies: Restaurant operators show faith in Glasgow’s future

Scotland’s largest city experienced a turbulent 2021, with Covid-19 having a now well documented impact on the evening leisure economy.

There is, however, a paradox at play in Glasgow, with the property market and desire amongst food and beverage (F&B) operators to open new premises bearing little relationship to the trading picture.

Savills research shows that in 2021, 17 new eateries opened in Glasgow city centre, which was an increase of

54.5 per cent from 2020 and, more telling, an increase of 6% from a pre-Covid 2019.

The market is clearly betting on an improving picture, with operators taking a longer term view of their business prospects, demonstrating a strong vote of confidence for Glasgow, which remains well placed to bounce back strongly from the current crisis.

Looking at 2021, the independent F&B operators in Glasgow again came to the fore, with 10 local brands opening in the city centre. Highlights include Namaste by Delhi Darbar in the St Enoch Centre, Ting Thai Caravan in West Nile Street, Roberta’s in St Vincent Street and Abandon Ship Bar in Mitchell Street. Local entrepreneurs have seized the chance to acquire available properties, and they have found landlords – many of whom have been stung by national chain defaulters – willing to talk.

Notwithstanding the above, national operators have still been a feature in 2021, with seven new openings. Notable additions include Franco Manca, which opened its doors in Mitchell Street in June, Doppio Malto in George Square in August, 63rd + 1st in Bothwell Street in September, while Nandos opened its latest restaurant in Glasgow in the

St Enoch Centre in October.

Turning to 2022, Glasgow F&B market looks promising. National brands are making a comeback across the UK leisure market as a whole and we anticipate the scales will tilt back in their favour this year. There is an increasing number of property requirements from these operators in Glasgow, with the likes of Rosa’s Thai, Popeyes, Cote, Giggling Squid and The Real Greek, to name a few, all assessing the city centre. Adding to this, there are some really exciting, high-profile F&B brands turning their focus on Glasgow confidentially and as and when they choose to commit to new premises

they will elevate Glasgow to represent one of the leading cities for food and leisure options in the UK.

And it’s not just new restaurants the city can expect to welcome, with a number of bar operators due to open

in 2022. Of note, craft brewer Innis & Gunn is scheduled to open its fifth taphouse (and first in Glasgow city centre) this summer in West Nile Street, creating 50 jobs in the process.

The arrival of F&B operators are also making welcome inroads into Glasgow’s prime shopping streets and we can expect to see operators opening in the likes of Buchanan Street and Gordon Street. Here, planning policy (which has historically prohibited non-retail uses) now looks very outdated as a mixed use approach will be critical for Glasgow’s post Covid-19 recovery to gather pace.

Pressure for the city to appear open for business should hopefully allow new applicants that would have historically been turned down to be successful. If retail and leisure works together on prime shopping streets it will inject much-needed new life to the city centre.

The growing demand will see F&B rents rise in 2022. From a peak of £40 per square foot before Covid-19, rental values halved in 2020, only to recover to 80% of their pre Covid-19 level in 2021. We expect them to rise back to £40psf this year, for the best located and configured properties.

Finally, 2022 will be a big year for entertainment operators. We will see

an increase in these brands linking an F&B offer to their own fun and games offering. Flight Club, Gutterball and Boom Battle Bar are all committed to open in Glasgow in 2022, offering a welcome range of experiences for the city centre.

John Menzies is a retail director at property firm Savills.

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