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Gourmet food-on-the-go concepts the Ones to Watch, says Horizons

By Luke Nicholls , 07-Sep-2012
Last updated on 10-Sep-2012 at 13:31 GMT

Quality ‘food-on-the-go’ has become the key area of growth for the UK’s eating out market, with concepts consistently emerging in transport hubs, shopping centres and busy high street locations as consumers are looking to eat where they want, when they want.

This is one of the key findings from the latest Ones to Watch survey compiled by foodservice consultancy Horizons. It concludes that the focus of many of the latest concepts is on gourmet versions of established food-on-the-go favourites such as burgers and hot dogs.

“A wider variety of takeaway foods are available as consumers expect better quality food-on-the-go,” said Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman. “New specialists are emerging, such as outlets selling dishes with just one or two ingredients or Artisan versions of popular concepts. Many are focusing their attention on high traffic areas such as shopping malls, railway stations and airports.”

This ‘Fast food goes gourmet’ trend is evident with the rollout of brands such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen and MeatLiquor alongside Primo’s, The Gourmet Hot Dog Company and the soon-to-open Bubbledogs, offering gourmet hot dogs. In the capital, this trend is further visible with the opening of Dach & Sons, selling hotdogs, burgers and sliders in Hampstead, and Roost, selling upmarket chicken snacks at Street Feast in East London.

Many of the new concepts also focus on limited menu offers such as Chicken Shop, owned by Nick Jones, the man behind Soho House, the London-based chain Burger & Lobster, and Mark Hix’s Tramshed, which sells steaks and chicken-based dishes.

Transport hubs

The report, which analyses emerging small-scale eating out brands and operators growing rapidly over the past three years, also highlights how the intense competition for prime, city-centre restaurant sites is spreading rapidly into transport hubs.

London’s Kings Cross station, for example, now has triple the concourse space and features established foodservice brands Burger King, Caffe Nero, Pret A Manger and Starbucks as well as up and coming Ones to Watch brands such as Benito’s Hat Mexican Kitchen and Yalla Yalla.

Additionally, established operators have extended their concepts to offer transport hub-specific variations such as Giraffe’s ‘Giraffe Stop’, a food-on-the-go, quick service format with a largely takeaway menu and some seating, and Prezzo opening its first outlet offering takeaway dishes such as flatbreads, pizza, pasta and salad at Kings Cross.

The first phase of the £25m redevelopment of London’s Waterloo Station includes a Yo! Sushi, Carluccio's and the Benugo variant Benugo Sports Bar and Grill. A new Corney and Barrow concept, C&B Cabin, is also expected to open there in the future.

Other findings from the Horizons Ones to Watch survey include coffee shops continuing to be a UK success story with high street brands expanding their repertoire as consumers becoming more knowledgeable and discerning about coffee; a continued growth in street food and more outlets specialising in healthy food.

Top 5 Ones to Watch in the UK eating out market:

  1. Coffee shops (quick service): Key Ones to Watch include Coffee#1, SOHO Coffee Co, Love Coffee, Greggs Moment, Sacred Cafe, Taylor St Baristas.
  2. Pub restaurants (casual dining): Pub food continues to improve as pub operators, both independent and chains, take on the high street restaurant chains with quality food served in a relaxed pub environment at good prices. Key Ones to Watch include Cloverleaf Restaurants, Eating Inn, Peach Pubs, Renaissance Pubs.
  3. Healthy eating (quick service): Nutritious, appetising food has become more exciting as operators are increasingly capturing consumer demand for healthy food. Key Ones to Watch include Chop’d, Food To Go, Pod, Tossed.
  4. Gourmet burgers (casual dining): Burgers made with quality ingredients in unusual taste combinations, often with food provenance a key selling point. The trend was first seen 10 years ago, though newcomers are still emerging. Key Ones to Watch include Byron and the Handmade Burger Co.
  5. Frozen yoghurt (quick service): Frozen yoghurt served in a variety of fruit and chocolate flavours, often in outlets with vivid décor and contemporary styling. Key Ones to Watch in this area include Frae, Snog, Pinkberry, Yog and Yoomoo.

Horizons’ ‘Bubbling Under’ brands (those currently with less than five outlets, but which are showing signs of significant growth for the future):

  • Mexican burrito fast casual: Benito’s Hat Mexican Kitchen, Chilango and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
  • Street food: Daddy Donkey (Mexican), Mooli’s (Indian), Tuk Cho (Oriental) and Yalla Yalla (Lebanese)
  • Tea bars: Leaf, tea, Teacup, TeaSmith, Tea Monkey, and Teapod
  • Brazilian churrascaria: Bem Brasil, Cabana, Viva Brazil
  • British restaurants: Bumpkin, Union Jacks
  • Japanese quick service: Me Love and Mori Sushi
  • Spanish restaurants: Brindisa and Camino

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