These are the 12 best UK cities for your food start-up

As restrictions ease and the world starts to resemble some form of pre-COVID normality, many people across the UK are making the most of their newfound freedom. According to a survey from Preoday, over half (58%) of Brits said the first thing they were looking forward to doing after lockdown was visit a restaurant or pub. So, if you’re thinking of opening your own food business, now is the perfect time to draw in a crowd of hungry customers.

But where in the UK is best for your start-up? We’ve analysed every city in the UK and shortlisted the best places to open your new food business, so you can hit the ground running and make the most of your location.

Which cities came out on top?

It’s certainly no surprise that some of the UK’s capital cities made it to the top of the list. The likes of London and Edinburgh have long been hotspots for businesses in England and Scotland, and with such high populations (8,961,989 in London and 524,930 in Edinburgh) along with a high proportion of tourists and students all hungry for new dining experiences, you certainly won’t have a shortage of customers.

As expected, a few other major UK cities also came on top. Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, and Glasgow appear in our top 12, along with major tourist sites and student cities like Westminster, Cambridge, Brighton, and Oxford.

What is surprising though, is that Glasgow and London emerged with the most points overall, putting Glasgow above the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. But this isn’t the most surprising result, as there were some underdogs on our list that we didn’t anticipate seeing.

Armagh was the most unexpected result. While Northern Irish cities are much smaller than those in England and Scotland, Armagh still made it onto our list with the same number of points as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Stirling, and Westminster. As one of the cheapest UK cities for business outgoings such as trading licence costs and food essentials, residents of Armagh may also expect to pay more for an inexpensive meal and a regular cappuccino, which is great news for your profit margin.

While eight of our 12 cities are in England, Stirling sits as the third Scottish city on our list, proving that the country has just as much to offer. This city has some of the lowest business rates in the whole of the UK, plus a higher average monthly disposable income compared to other major cities.

Although no Welsh cities appeared in our top 12, Bangor just missed out on a spot in our ranking with three points. With considerably low business rates and an average annual salary similar to that in Stirling, this could be the place to go if you’re looking to open your new business in Wales.

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Dark, Director and Co-Owner of Custom Planet, said:

“The location of your business can play a huge role in your success. Choose the right one, and you could benefit from increased footfall, bigger profit margins, and fewer business costs overall. But, when starting a business, it can be tricky to know just where to go. That’s why we’ve created our ranking of the top 12 UK cities for food start-ups, to give new business owners a helping hand.

“While some of the cities in our top 12 don’t come as a surprise — London was always going to be up there for example — there’s definitely a few that we didn’t expect. Stirling made it as the third Scottish city in our top 12, but perhaps one of the most surprising is Armagh in Northern Ireland. While it may be small, Armagh has plenty of potential for those looking to start their own business venture.

“Meanwhile, other larger cities such as Swansea, Sheffield, and York, for example, didn’t make the top spot. This list just goes to show that many factors contribute to the best location for a food business. Larger locations such as London and Edinburgh benefit from a high population, student numbers, and tourism, but you’ll also face higher running costs. Meanwhile, smaller cities such as Armagh have a smaller population, but cheaper costs mean your business could thrive. So, there’s certainly somewhere for every business owner.”


To create our list, we looked at all 69 cities across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and compared them using 14 different ranking factors. These factors were used to judge how much custom a business could expect to get and its profit potential, as well as how much it may cost for rent, supplies, and staff salaries. These were:

Whether the city had an enterprise scheme
The average rent for a retail space[1]
Business rates[2]
Cost of a street trading licence application and licence[3]
Tourist population[4]
Student population[5]
Total population[6]
Cost of living per month before rent[7]
Annual salary before tax[8]
Average sales assistant salary[9]
Annual and monthly disposable income[10]
Average cost of an inexpensive meal
Average cost of a regular cappuccino
Average cost of food essentials[11]

Based on these factors, we then narrowed down our data to a top 10 for each category. Then, we looked at which cities appeared most often in our top 10 lists, to discover our top 12 overall best UK cities for food start-ups.

The location you choose for your start-up depends entirely on your business idea and target audience, but our ranking of the best UK cities for food businesses should provide you with a great starting point on your journey to success.

Your location isn’t the only thing that can take your business from strength to strength. Even if you find the perfect location, your work isn’t done yet, and you’ll want to spread the word about your business to make the most of your ideal location and customer base. Solid branding and marketing are vital if you want to get your new start-up seen by potential customers, so don’t forget to take a look at our range of promotional products and branded clothing, including our hospitality uniforms. Everything can be printed with your logo, so you can get your new business in front of hungry customers.

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