Speaking at the company’s annual briefing, managing director Peter Backman said market growth would continue to be driven by group operators, in particular pizza delivery outlets, managed branded pubs, pub restaurants and coffee shops.
Backman said: “More robust levels of consumer consumption have been prompted by the fact people are now less exposed to high levels of borrowing, are more certain of their jobs, and are buoyed by low inflation.
"This is great news for the eating out sector – and while it’s not racing ahead, it is growing at a higher level than we have seen since before the economic downturn.”
The average spend on a three-course meal has risen in the past year to £14.48, and 35-44 year olds are eating out more than ever.
The company’s Ones to Watch survey indicated that brands such as Fuel Juice Bars, Dunkin’ Donuts, Abokado and Tortilla Mexican Grill were set to expand across high streets.
Food trends such as the increasing number of regional American dishes on menus as well as world cuisines such as Vietnamese, Peruvian, and Egyptian were set to remain popular.
Director of services Nicola Knight said: “Juice bars, Mexican and specialists such as Pieminster and Dunkin’ Donuts are growing their estates and there is still plenty of room left for growth in the coffee sector.
"In terms of regional expansion the UK’s hotspots for development include Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and some of the UK’s market towns, along with London.”
Consumer’s sweet tooth
There was also a trend towards catering for health and well-being considerations as well as offering more indulgent dishes.
Wafflemeister founder Alex Trouillier, currently with 11 outlets and actively seeking franchise partners, said the consumer sugar craving was ‘not going to go away’.
He explained that the company deliberately used sweet waffles in order to cater for consumers who wanted to treat themselves in an intelligent, low calorie way.
Managing director Backman ended the conference by reminding operators of the importance of staying ahead of dining trends.
He said: “Keep in touch with the way people are eating out now and the products they want – the market is changing all the time and if you don’t offer what they want, someone else will.”