Growing pains: How Manchester’s changing tastes are shaping the city’s neighbourhoods

MANCHESTER’s buzzing dining scene can seem turbulent at times – with a revolving door of closures and openings. It’s all part of an evolving destination city, argues Henry Boot Developments’ Adam Brady.

Whispers of saturation have been circling the city in recent months, as several closures have grabbed headlines. Whether high-end or high street, the departures from Manchester’s dining scene have been swift and noticeable.

And yet, demand is growing. Rather than saturation, I’d argue it’s the evolution of the city scene and rapidly changing tastes. To understand what is driving consumers, we need to understand our city – both today and in the future. This is all the more important if we’re going to create vibrant new neighbourhoods that will be successful for decades to come, like KAMPUS.

The number of city centre dwellers is a spiralling trend not expected to slow. Forecasts are that the count should hit around 60,000 by the end of this year, with new homes driving this figure to around 100,000 residents by 2025. But perhaps more interesting is the maturing of the city. While younger people still dominate as residents, there’s a greater proportion of 35 – 49-year-olds calling the city-centre home.

So the demand is there. And the type of consumer is clearly broadening. That brings with it opportunity for anyone who can get their offer right.

It’s been a perfect storm for some restaurateurs and big chains alike. Rising costs and business rates have all taken their toll to the point where doors have closed. Those who know the scene attribute some of this to the changing tastes among diners, with people drawn to smaller and more unique offerings, with a perception of better quality or unique experience.

Weathering this storm and leading from the front in Manchester are the regionals & independents. The likes of El Gato Negro, Bundobust and Rudy’s have carved out loyal followings, while the Mackie Mayor and a flux of microbreweries with bolt-on tap rooms are crammed with punters both day and night.

For us KAMPUS is a blank canvas and the challenge is to create something eclectic and unique that gives the city’s residents and visitors something to not only explore, but keep coming back to.

We’re not after destinations that will draw a crowd to the ‘now’ place to be, who’ll then depart in droves when the next new hangout comes along. We’re after a blend of businesses – whether that’s bars, restaurants, cafes or breweries – who will help us nurture a faithful family that know KAMPUS will offer them fun, quality and choice.

It is curation in its truest sense. Get one piece of the jigsaw wrong and the rest doesn’t hang together like it should. Get too many of one type of occupier and the place starts to look a little beige.

There are challenges to this approach. These types of outlets typically only plan a year or so in advance, rather than the 2-3 year expansion programmes of the big boys. But we’re sure it’ll be worth it. Rather than forcing a destination on Manchester, KAMPUS will be made in its own image, tastes and attitude.

Adam is a Director at Henry Boot Developments. Follow them on Twitter: @HenryBootDev