Published: 05:00, 10 May 2022
| Updated: 14:28, 10 May 2022
A host of new restaurants are set to open in Canterbury over the coming weeks and months, with one launching today.
Pizza, steak and Mexican menus are among those which are set to widen the city's offering.
Two of the new outlets are planned for former retail units, while another is proposed at a former travel agents amid "a greater shift towards leisure" in the high street.
Franco Manca, a pizza chain specialising in sourdough, is welcoming customers for the first time today in the former Costa coffee house.
The prominent unit at the junction with Guildhall Street has been under renovation for the past few months.
After opening its first store in Brixton Market in 2008, Franco Manca has rapidly expanded and now comprises 70 branches, the majority of which are in London.
Further down the high street, a new restaurant centred on serving up steak dishes is getting set to launch.
herd. is opening an eatery in the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen unit next to Subway and opposite The Friars junction.
herd. also has a licensing application in with the council, as it strives to gain the go-ahead for live music performances and the sale of alcohol.
Its new restaurant is planned to be open five days a week, with doors shut on Mondays and Tuesdays.
It could act as a rival to the meat-led menu at Socialite which is also primed to open in the coming months.
The rooftop restaurant above the city's Hampton by Hilton hotel in St Margaret's Street will cater for more than 100 diners.
A bid to secure permission for sax players, violinists and DJs at the venue is currently lodged with the council, and the site is hoped to open either at the end of this month or sometime in June.
Elswhere in St Margaret's Street, a few doors along from the planned Socialite restaurant, will be another rival high-end eatery.
Cosy Club, which already has 31 branches across the country, but none in Kent, prides itself on offering table service in grand interiors which "create a sense of occasion".
It has its sights set on the former Closs & Hamblin store, which is vacant following the relocation of the fabrics and homeware company to the Marlowe Arcade.
Last month, the firm acquired a pavement licence from the council to install 10 dining tables in the street every day.
Heading back up the high street, a New Orleans-style sandwich shop is poised to open in the former West Cornwall Pasty Company store opposite Patisserie Valerie.
Canterbury Po'Boys wants to sell po'boys - a traditional sandwich from Louisiana - at the unit. The owner is keeping details of the new venture under wraps for now, but a po'boy traditionally consists of a meat filling served on French bread known for its crisp crust and fluffy centre.
An Instagram page has been set up ahead of the impending launch and a licensing bid is lodged with the city council.
Further along St Peter's Street, near Franco Manca, is the empty Sta Travel unit, which looks likely to be filled by Tortilla - the UK’s largest ‘fast-casual’ Mexican brand.
The firm has a growing number of sites across the UK, including one at Bluewater.
Leaders at Canterbury's Business Improvement District (Bid) say the array of upcoming restaurant openings is a positive for the city.
Chief executive Lisa Carlson said: "We are delighted to be welcoming new businesses to the city and widening our hospitality offer.
"The ethos at herd. of creating delicious meals with locally-sourced products is a great reason to celebrate their arrival. They will be joining 10 new businesses that have opened this year in the city centre.
"We wish them all every success.”
Fast-food chain Taco Bell is also set to take on the former Jigsaw clothes store, converting the high street shop into a restaurant and takeaway.
The incoming tenant, which is also bidding to open a drive-thru restaurant off Sturry Road, is set to employ 10 full-time members of staff and five part-time workers.
In documents submitted with plans to convert the site into a restaurant, property consultants Green & Partners highlights how securing a retail tenant in Canterbury is now difficult.
Interest in the hospitality sector is, however, strong.
Planning papers state: “Many of the named brands that have high street requirements are nervous about Canterbury itself due to its strong links with tourism and the effect the pandemic has had on footfall in the area.
“The high street is no longer considered a prime retailing pitch."
Speaking to KentOnline's sister paper, the Kentish Gazette, in March, city council leader Ben Fitter-Harding said the increase in restaurant operator interest is a welcome sign.
“I think it’s a really good news story for Canterbury,” he said.
“There’s a place for retail. Whitefriars is performing strongly and there are really low levels of void.
“In other parts of the city there is a greater shift towards leisure, but I certainly don’t see that as a bad thing. I think that’s a great thing.
“Having places for people to eat is really positive. People might want to head into Canterbury for food and then go out shopping, so it supports retail.
“Following Covid, it’s a great position to be in.”