Growing restaurant scene drives up city centre rents

BIDDING wars between restaurant operators are driving up rents on former retail units in the centre of Leeds following a resurgence of the city’s dining scene, according to a retail expert.

Property firm CBRE estimates that at least 20-30 new restaurants and other eateries have opened in and around Trinity Shopping Centre since it opened almost 18 months ago.

Competition for space is forcing up rents by up to 40 per cent on the most popular units.

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New names in Leeds include Byron, Wasabi, Pho, Tortilla, Roast & Conch and Reds BBQ. Five Guys and Itsu have agreed terms to open restaurants.

At least 10 operators are still looking for units in and around Trinity but with fewer opportunities becoming available, competition is fierce.

James Fox, associate director of retail at CBRE in Leeds, said: “The ripple effect of Trinity has created strong restaurant demand in and around the traditional retail pitches of Leeds. This in turn is increasing competition for certain retail units that are potentially convertible to restaurants.”

According to the latest city centre audit by Leeds City Council, there were 129 restaurants, cafes and takeaways in January 2014, plus 113 bars and pubs and figures are rising.

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Earlier this year, four or five restaurants fought to take over the Austin Reed store on Albion Street. In the end, Sainsbury’s won the bidding war, but Mr Fox said the demand from restaurants had driven up the rent.

Meanwhile, Byron Hamburgers recently moved into the former La Senza store, paying an annual rent of £165,000.

Mr Fox said: “Rents almost dropped off a cliff a few years ago, going down by 30-40 per cent. On certain units, competition is driving rents up towards where they used to be.”

Nigel Foster, Leeds Chamber president, is confident the city can cope with the influx of new restaurants.

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“Leeds is seeing more and more visitors and they are spending more time and money here per visit,” he said.

He added: “As Leeds continues to grow the demand for more restaurants and other attractions will also increase.”

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