The pre-Christmas quarter of 2008 looks set to go down in history as a boom period for London restaurant openings, and possibly an out-and-out record.
Forty openings, excluding Westfield, have already been noted for the quarter. Direct historical figures are not available for comparison, but if you multiply the 40 by four that would give an implied opening rate of 160 per annum, broadly equivalent to the record annual rate of openings so far ever recorded – 158 (noted from mid-2006 to mid-2007). (See Note)
Our quarterly figure of 40, however, is calculated excluding the openings at Westfield. Not all of the west London shopping centre’s ‘concepts’ – almost 50 of them – are what you’d necessarily call restaurants, but many of them are (see list below). Add the Westfield openings, and it’s pretty clear that you have a very definite boom in pre-Christmas restaurant openings. This is especially so if you look at the number of seats, as some of the Westfield openings are very large indeed. The Meat and Wine Co has 250 covers (think Quaglino’s), and Fire & Stone has 200 (including 60 outside).
So, we may not be able positively to prove that openings for the quarter are a record, but we suspect they are. By any reckoning, though, there is is a great deal of recent new capacity about, and by any reckoning the timing of its arrival is extremely unfortunate.
Known openings in the three months to 25 December 2008
Non-Westfield openings (40 so far)
Some 50 ‘concepts’, including:
A question clearly hangs over the validity of such grossing up, especially as openings are often said to tend to ‘bunch’ pre-Christmas. Perusal of our reviews of new openings over the last couple of years, however, suggests that this pre-Christmas bias is less strong than is sometimes believed. We can therefore conclude that the 40 non-Westfield openings so far in the pre-Christmas quarter is a pretty healthy level by any standards.