Restaurants and bars sector in Bristol on the rise

19 August 2015

There's no denying the restaurants and bars sector has been thoroughly stress-tested over the last five years or so. But, as we move through the new post-recession recovery, there has been a significant positive shift towards dining in Bristol, not just by consumers but by investors too. With an improving economy, the increase in city centre living and the general public’s attitude towards eating out, the number of consumers looking to spend their pounds in the city has significantly increased. Combine this with a vibrant, dynamic area that has a passion for food and drink, not to mention the local availability of fantastic produce, and you’ve got a restaurant and bar sector going from strength to strength.

The ethos of making best use of quality, local ingredients seems to be the bedrock of Bristol’s food and drink scene. From James Wilkins’ Michelin-starred Wilks to the traders at St Nicholas Market, as well as at the numerous food and drink festivals held in and around the city, there is a pride and passion for local produce that gives a vibrancy to Bristol that other cities struggle to copy.

Restaurants in Bristol

While this is a common thread that runs through many of Bristol’s success stories, it is not to say that everywhere is the same. Rather, the variety and diversity of Bristol is one of its key attributes. Wilks and its fellow Michelin Star holder Casamia offer fine dining at its best, but they compete for local consumers’ attention with the likes of the meat heavy Grillstock Smokehouse and tapas operator Pata Negra.

The city is also a big follower of national trends: the inexorable rise of the burger (Atomic Burger; The Burger Joint); the renewed interest in craft beer (Zerodegrees; Beer Emporium); a focus on cocktails (Milk Thistle; Hyde & Co); the popularity of street food events (Bristol Eats; Bristol Food Connections Festival) etc. However, it does so with its own style, verve and attitude.

There’s a sense that Bristolians make a concerted effort to be supportive of local independents as they want them to succeed and feel a part of that success. What’s interesting though is that by supporting the local ‘underdog’, people have helped businesses such as Loungers, which was founded in Bristol in 2002, establish a solid platform for growth and expansion away from the city as well.

Clifton Suspension bridge - Bristol

And Loungers is not alone. Last month saw private equity-backed Las Iguanas acquired by Casual Dining Group for a reported £85 million – not bad for a restaurant that started off in 1991 on a quiet street in Bristol. Meanwhile, operators such as Turtle Bay and Boston Tea Party are all making an impact far beyond their local roots; the likes of Friska, Hotcha and Aqua Group are also beginning to spread their wings.

National brands are benefiting from the local appetite too. We have MEATLiquor set to open in the city later this year, and San Carlo Group is going from strength to strength having invested another £500,000 in its Bristol site.

The brilliantly positive attitude that pervades will continue to generate new ideas and concepts, but it will also continue to welcome those from outside the city that enrich an already diverse food and drink culture.


As a corporate finance adviser, I’m excited at the prospect of more expansion and more success stories to come. Investors have a renewed sense of confidence in the restaurants and bars sector, especially having proved how resilient they are through the recession. This, combined with the quality of concepts and operators in and around Bristol, will no doubt pave the way for future transactions.

In July, featured an economic outlook analysis of the Bristol region.

An article from Kieran Lawton, a mergers and acquisitions Director at advisory firm BDO.


Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.