By Daniel Hunter

A new report published today (Thursday) reveals that the next UK start-up success story could be a Pret A Manger rather than a Facebook.

The report into the eating out sector, which contributes £25 billion to GDP annually, was carried out by new social enterprise Kitchenette. Its findings demonstrate that food start-ups were flourishing despite economic conditions and that the industry could even hold the key to boosting the nation’s recovery.

The research focussed on eight leading food ventures, ranging from a burger van and street food vendor Big Apple Hot Dogs through to restaurant chain Meat Liquor and leading exporter Neal’s Yard Dairy.

Figures show that eating out is enjoying something of an unlikely boom, against the terminal decline of the British high street, with more than 25% more restaurants opening in London in 2012 than in the previous year.

The hospitality industry contributed more job growth than any other industrial sector in 2011. It is predicted that, given the right support from local councils, food could create as many as 25,000 further new jobs a year and contribute an additional £500m to the economy.

It is not all positive news however. Restrictions by the government and local councils on street food and independent cafes and restaurants are hampering growth and need to be addressed, whilst there is a growing need for a British Food Envoy to stimulate the export market. Food entrepreneurs must also receive better support and mentoring.

The report lays out a six-point plan for councils, government and industry figures to help grow the industry:

- Boost food exports by appointing a credible British Food Envoy to represent artisanal British produce and food brands abroad

- Get behind great British street food by lifting the legislative restrictions facing food markets (especially in London), and reserving at least 5% of market pitches for start-up food entrepreneurs

- Open up underutilised kitchens and spaces in public and private sector buildings for pop-up restaurants and street markets

- Put food entrepreneurship on the agenda in catering colleges

- Develop a Food Strategy for local areas and incentivise property developers to support new food markets by amending the planning system regulations

- Get capital flowing by simplifying the rules facing food businesses


“This report makes fascinating reading. It is both exciting and heartening to hear that food start-ups are flourishing, despite the recession," Iqbal Wahhab, philanthropist, restaurateur and chair of Kitchenette, said.

"However there is still much to be done in terms of encouraging young entrepreneurs — and cutting through the red tape that continues to hamper the launch of so many businesses — if the industry is to realise its enormous potential.”

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