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Local restaurants are UK's second biggest enhancer of community spirit, report shows


Local restaurants are the second biggest enhancer of community spirit nationwide, after green spaces, according to a report. The Restaurant Impact Report features research of 5,000 adults, as well as ONS data and findings from the Open Arms Report, to look at the role restaurants play in local communities and wellbeing.

It found 56 percent visit their favourite hospitality spot at least once a month, with as many as 15 percent on first-name terms with their local restaurant staff or owners.

Other amenities that improve spirits include things like gyms and libraries (33 percent), good neighbours (29 percent), and events like village fetes (27 percent).

Dr Tara Swart, a leading neuroscientist, doctor, and senior lecturer, speaking about the report compiled by OpenTable, said: “There are benefits to individuals beyond the simple act of eating a meal in a restaurant.

“Dining out gives the brain a multi-sensory experience, and stimulates many different regions across the brain.

“Socialising at restaurants encourages the release of dopamine (the reward hormone), serotonin (mood), and oxytocin (bonding), which can ultimately reduce stress and make us happier.

“Novel experiences, and variation in the kinds of foods that we eat – particularly from different cultures – can contribute to the plasticity of the brain as we age, leading to improved quality of life.”

The study also found 31 percent believe restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, and other places to eat enhance their wellbeing – with this figure rising to 37 percent of Londoners.

And 64 percent think local places to eat are important in building a sense of community, with 57 percent of the opinion that eating out locally brings people together.

Meanwhile, 58 percent of those polled, via OnePoll, even went as far as to say they feel “at home” in their local eatery.

The Restaurant Impact Report includes research from The Open Arms report, which looked at the role of pubs in tackling loneliness – and found that 64 percent see the venues as one of the main places to socialise.

And 86 percent are of the belief that the whole community can suffer when a local pub closes.

The research discovered those in London (41 percent), Birmingham (37 percent), Glasgow (43 percent), and Manchester (40 percent), agreed that local restaurants, pubs, cafés, and other places to eat, are among the top three biggest enhancers of community spirit over other amenities.

But local eateries have other impacts, including on the economy – with OpenTable figures finding that dining demand has remained steady year-on-year, despite the cost-of-living crisis.

And restaurants continue to open, with ONS data showing a total of 150,000 in the UK last year – an increase of eight percent on 2019 – with London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow seeing the biggest growth.

As a result, the number of people employed by the hospitality sector is also growing, rising from 1.46 million in 2019, to 1.56 million in 2021.

Of the adults polled, many felt neighbourhood restaurants helped to boost the local economy by providing jobs locally (67 percent), encouraging spending (65 percent), increasing footfall (43 percent), and encouraging people to move to the area (26 percent).

It also emerged the average diner is willing to travel 35 minutes to get to their favourite restaurant – with 64 percent “frequently” or “sometimes” staying in the area for other reasons, such as shopping, and/or visiting the cinema.

Robin Chiang, SVP of International Growth at the online restaurant-reservation service – which also publishes a list of Neighbourhood Gems in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Manchester – said: “OpenTable’s Report celebrates restaurants, and the value they provide local residents and their communities.

“The hospitality that restaurants provide extends well beyond the walls of their venues, and we are pleased to shine a spotlight on all the ways they enhance our lives.”

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