Harden’s 2016 restaurant guide epitomises London’s booming food scene. Net restaurant openings – the difference between restaurant openings and restaurant closures - hit a record 123 operators. What makes London such a great place to launch or expand a food business?
London has the second highest GDP per capita in the EU, mainly due to the higher mix of London's social housing in central districts compared to Paris.
Londoners work longer workings days and weeks, often with unpredictable leisure time due to 'on demand' working practices.
Smartphones make it easier to catch up with friends at shorter notice, and to find somewhere convenient and available to meet up.
London’s millennials have grown up with a rich and varied food scene. They are fluent in the foodie vocabulary to appreciate and explore it.
If the 1980s were about what you drove or where you lived, the 2010s are more about where you drink and what you eat. Many millennials can’t access the property ladder and are investing in experiences and relationships instead of property or stocks and shares.
Britain was among the first countries to see rapid and intense industrialisation. In an era before mass refrigeration, urban food supply and production became much more processed. In time we would lose touch with home cooking and be ripe and ready for restaurant chains and takeouts.
While nineteenth century France developed the modern restaurant format as a keystone to their domestic economy, Britain instead sought to build an Empire through international trade. Expatriate Brits' tastebuds were exposed to very different ingredients and flavours.
Many post-war Britons were enchanted by the continental glamour of Elizabeth David and others. Foreign cuisines were exotic, colourful – and diverted you from the tedium of ration-book life.
Open taste buds
Britain’s national cuisine was much more loosely embedded than for example French, Italian or Spanish cooking within their own national cultures. Brits remain much more open to trying a new cuisine.
As post-war immigration accelerated, native Britons increasingly opened their plates to this increasingly diverse stream of new ingredients, dishes and cuisines from around the world, often seeded and expanding from London.