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

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

Dr Tara Swart, a leading neuroscientist, doctor, and senior lecturer, 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.

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“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, 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 report also found 31 per cent believe restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and other places to eat enhance their wellbeing, with this figure rising to 37 per cent of Londoners.

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

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And 58 per cent of those polled went as far as to say they feel ‘at home’ in their local eatery.

The report also includes research from The Open Arms report, which found that 64 per cent see pubs as one of the main places to socialise.

With 86 per cent of the belief that the whole community can suffer when a local pub closes.

The research discovered those in London (41 per cent), Birmingham (37 per cent), Glasgow (43 per cent), and Manchester (40 per cent), agreed that local restaurants, pubs, cafés and other places to eat are one of 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 per cent 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 per cent), encouraging spending (65 per cent), increasing footfall (43 per cent) and encouraging people to move to the area (26 per cent).

It also emerged the average diner is willing to travel 35 minutes to get to their favourite restaurant, with 64 per cent ‘frequently’ or ‘sometimes’ staying in the area for other reasons, such as shopping and or visiting the cinema.

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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 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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