SOUTHEND High Street is becoming a magnet for people eating out and enjoying a drink as big-name companies and independent restaurants queue up to invest in the city centre.

Mediterranean restaurant Black and Red Bistro Grill, Mexican eatery Plan Burrito and Asian-inspired Sokuri have all thrown open their doors in recent weeks and are receiving rave reviews from customers.

American burger chain, Wendy’s is also set to open near McDonald’s at the Royals end of the High Street and Black Sheep Coffee could be set to open in the old Post Office near WH Smith.

Echo: Newest addition - inside Black and Red Bistro GrillNewest addition - inside Black and Red Bistro Grill (Image: Black and Red Bistro Grill)

It comes as a range of new businesses opened in Southend High Street over the past year as data shows more than 85 per cent of shops are now occupied.

There are also several shops that are being or have recently been refitted for opening, including the old Miss Selfridge store.

Southend Business Improvement District - the group funded by a levy paid by High Street companies - said it was not surprising more hospitality was in the mix as the city becomes a place to eat out.

George Bejko-Cowlbeck, chairman of Southend City BID and owner of Caddies, said: “We regularly check the occupancy level in the High Street area and not only was our recent count a very positive 86 per cent but also observed several units being refitted for opening.

Echo: Refitted - Two of the transformed Miss Selfridge units filledRefitted - Two of the transformed Miss Selfridge units filled (Image: Aras Ali)

“This can only be good news for the local economy. There is a lot to be confident about in Southend with good footfall and an entrepreneurial spirit.

“We are a destination that thousands love to visit throughout the year, so it is not surprising that we are seeing investment take place and that more hospitality seems to be in the mix.

"The Business Improvement District (BID) is doing its part to promote and improve the experience with our Rangers out every day providing confidence, events encouraging more visitors and banners, bunting and floral displays all planned to improve the look and feel of the local environment.”

Southend BID, which has recently started a new five-year term following vote by city centre businesses, has made efforts to make the city centre attractive to businesses at the centre of its mission.

The BID also manages four street rangers to inspire confidence for traders and the public in Southend. During the last 12 months they have recovered more than £70,000 worth of goods. They have also answered more than 3,500 public enquiries and more than 100 first aid responses.