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Could 24-hour dining be the future for British restaurants?

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The recent launch of London restaurant Duck & Waffle, one of the country's first high-end eateries to pitch itself as a 24-hour stop for hungry diners, has led a number of analysts to suggest staying open for longer could be a major trend in the industry over the coming years.

Located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, the eatery encourages a convivial atmosphere through the use of sharing plates and sample platters, placing an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients and revamps of classic British dishes.

However, its unique selling point is its 24-hour status, with breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and late night menus all available for hungry punters.

While moving towards a broader range of dining options could necessitate the purchase of wholesale catering equipment for some restaurants, it is possible that this will help eateries - especially those in busy urban areas - move ahead of their rivals in the market.

In addition to the Duck & Waffle, London's VQ in Chelsea is open at all hours and has recently completed a major refurbishment project aimed at attracting new clientele to the site.

The concept of 24-hour restaurants is relatively alien to Britons, perhaps due in part to the country's licensing laws, but these have been relaxed in recent years and the attitude from consumers and businesses could be changing.

In cities across Europe and Asia, many eateries stay open until well into the night and the eating habits of the population have changed accordingly.

Peter Backman, managing director of food consultancy Horizons, told the Independent: "In the next decade we will likely see more places that are open for breakfast or into the night - it is a way of getting the most from the money you spend on overheads."

While the cost of hiring staff to work at relatively unsociable hours may be difficult for some companies to deal with, the benefits of making use of property rent, electricity and other outgoings for a longer period of time could outweigh this consideration.

By allowing restaurants to be more flexible with their dining options and attract a wider range of customers, 24-hour opening could help ensure businesses outpace their counterparts in what has become an increasingly competitive market.

Specialisation has increasingly become a mistake for many mid-range eateries, with Mr Backman recently stressing the importance of flexibility at a British Frozen Food Federation marketing seminar in Reading.

"Looking five, ten or more years down the line the cost of rents and overheads will encourage operators to truly maximise the space they have, making each square foot of their premises contribute to boosting turnover in order to improve profitability," he forecast.

The Horizons chief explained that as well as opening for longer, larger outlets are likely to offer consumers a number of different dining options in order to expand their prospective customer base.

This can be achieved by offering a takeaway option, quick service food and a traditional sit-down restaurant, noted Mr Backman.

With conditions still difficult for many restaurateurs across the country, tapping into the 24-hour market could be one way to keep their performance strong - if they can deal with a few sleepless nights.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801490263-ADNFCR

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