Boom in number of Norwich cafés, restaurants and food trucks - but city has lost 30 pubs in eight years
PUBLISHED: 08:46 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 31 October 2018
From pizzas to paella and gyros to Gorgonzola, Norwich’s booming food scene has something for everyone.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paint a rosy picture of dining in Norwich, with the number of restaurants, cafés, takeaways and food trucks having grown in both the last eight years, and the last 12 months.
For licensed restaurants - those which serve alcohol - the number has grown from 105 in 2010 to 140 this year, a 33.3pc increase. For unlicensed eateries - which includes coffee shops and fast food spots - that figure has risen from 45 to 75, 66.6pc.
But it also takes into account takeaway food shops and mobile stands, including market stalls, which have grown from 95 in 2010 to 120 now.
In 2018 alone the city welcomed a mix of big name and independent spots, including The Ivy, That Café, Gali and Vagabond.
And in the coming months, national chain Cosy Club, a trio of new eateries at Timberhill Terrace on Castle Mall and a new independent in the two-storey former Prezzo on Thorpe Road will also arrive.
No 33 Café has been operating in the city since 2006, but this year expanded into their neighbouring building to both enlarge their kitchen and cope with growing customer demand.
Nichola Cawley, owner, said their trade had increased since they opened.
She said there had been a notable increase over that time in how discerning customers are, and in particular more of a focus on healthy, vegetarian and vegan options.
“City centres can often be really standardised, and it’s sometimes only when you move just outside, where rates are cheaper, that you see more diversity,” she said.
“I think the strength of independent restaurants is that they are able to more easily offer alternatives and respond to demand.”
Norwich market has also thrived, with a flux of new food stalls in the last couple of years, and food trucks, such as those run by Feast on the Street, remain popular.
The biggest growth category in the figures, though, was in other food service activities, including food concessions at venues and canteens in offices, hospital and schools. They increased by 700pc, from just five in 2010 and 40 in 2018.
Graham Jones, an associate with Roche Chartered Surveyors, said the city’s location was key, as well as its strong reputation for shopping.
“The catchment is far greater than in a lot of UK cities,” he said. “Anyone in Norfolk is going to come to Norwich, even perhaps in north Suffolk.”
He said while it was still a tough industry to operate in, and one which often had to evolve, there were not often empty spots for restaurants in the city.
Hotels on the up
There has been a slight increase in the number of hotels in the city - with a handful more set to arrive in the coming years.
According to the figures, there were 25 hotels and similar accommodation around Norwich in 2010, which has since risen to 30, a 20pc increase. The number of other holiday and short-stay accommodation has remained steady at five.
There have been calls for the city to welcome more hotels, with plans in the works for a handful more.
Permission for a boutique hotel and spa has been granted for the site of the old bus station ticket office in Surrey Street, with owner Dennis Bacon hopeful it will open next year.
And in November last year, budget hotel operator Travelodge wrote to Norwich City Council to put forward an “innovative partnership to support local regeneration”.
And a new Hilton by Hampton hotel is set to open on Spitfire Road, near the airport, late this year.
But 30 pubs lost
While the number of eateries has boomed, the same can’t be said for pubs and clubs.
The city has lost 30 pubs over the last eight years, from 140 in 2010 to 110 in 2018 - a drop of 21.4pc.
It has fluctuated over the years, falling to 105 in 2012 before increasing to 125 in 2015.
But it has declined in every year since then.
Ian Stamp, Norwich and Norfolk Camra branch chairman, said while the city centre coped better, it was pubs in the suburbs that struggled.
He said with a larger footprint, they were often more likely to be turned into supermarkets or homes.
“In the suburbs there’s also fewer pubs, and when people go out they tend to go into the city, rather than round the corner because, often, it’s not that close,” he said.
And the number of licensed clubs has remained steady over the last eight years, with 20 recorded in both 2010 and 2018. The number increased to 25 fom 2011 to 2014, dipping to 20 in 2015 and back to 25 the following year, but has fallen back to 20 over the last two years.
Standards must be high
That Café was one of the new eateries to open this year, setting up shop on St Augustines Street in February.
A small, family business, they offer food and drink, including coffees, pastries, sausage rolls and soup.
Owner Chris Featherby said they had been pleasantly surprised by trade so far.
“I didn’t really know what to expect but we are getting some great customers, who keep coming back,” he said.
“We are seeing from the numbers that it’s growing so it shows we have made the right decision. It’s still very hard to attract customers and there is a lot of competition in the city centre.”
He said eateries today had to maintain high standards in all aspects of the business.
“A few years ago you could have opened a greasy spoon but today people have much higher standards,” he said.
He added that, with the popularity of review websites, it was also much easier for a business’ reputation to be damaged.