London restaurants emerge from record slump… just

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The growth of London’s restaurant scene staged a weak recovery in the last 12 months.

That’s the conclusion of the 29th edition of Harden’s London Restaurants and its restaurant-finder app, published on 24th October, which records 174 newcomers in its new edition (up from 167 last year): the fourth-highest year for openings on record (the record of 200 being three years ago).

Closures, however, also stand at near-record levels with 110 recorded. This level is barely below last year’s chart-topping 117, and the former record of 113 in 2004 (a year hit by the second gulf war and SARS epidemic).

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Net openings (that is Openings minus Closures) of 64 (174-110) were up by 28% on the previous year’s figure of 50 (167-117). Viewing these figures on the graph of London Net Openings below adds to the strong impression that the figures recorded in the middle of the decade were exceptional, and that the market has returned to a ‘normal’ level of growth (at 50-75 net openings per year).

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The feeling that the market is still a tough one is reinforced by the ratio of openings to closures, or “churn”. At 1.6:1, it represents only a slight gain from last year’s 1.4:1, and is well below the 29-year average of 2.1:1.

Previous slumps in activity have generally been followed by a sharp rebound in the ratio of Openings/Closures either back to, or above, the long-term average. But you have to go back to the deep recession of the early 1990s to find as limp a recovery as the one currently underway.

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