Small restaurant chains expanding at a rapid rate, says Horizons

By Carina Perkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Casual dining, Types of restaurants

There has been a noticeable trend towards niche operators such as those serving burgers, crepes, burritos and juices
There has been a noticeable trend towards niche operators such as those serving burgers, crepes, burritos and juices
Small restaurant chains are growing at the fastest rate experienced for several years, with a noticeable movement towards niche offerings, according Horizon’s latest Ones to Watch report.

The report tracks the rate of expansion of emerging eating out brands, looking at operators with between five to 25 outlets that have grown outlet numbers by at least 20 per cent over the past three years.

Horizons said 155 brands qualified as Ones to Watch in April 2014, compared to 105 in October 2013.

“Now the economic climate is in recovery, and consumers are starting to spend again, we are seeing the emergence and growth of some exciting new eating out concepts as well as those that are now starting to grow their estates,” said Nicola Knight, Horizons’ director of services.

“Names such as Pieminster, Tiger Bills and Burger & Lobster are for the first time making an appearance in Ones To Watch as they reach five or more outlets.”

Niche and casual

Horizons said the report revealed a ‘distinct trend’ towards niche offerings such as as crepes, burritos, juices, gourmet burgers and pies.

The biggest growth was recorded in the healthy quick service, Italian casual dining and sandwich bar quick service sectors.

American diner brand Ed’s Easy Diner was the fastest growing brand by site openings, having opened 13 new outlets over the past three years, with plans to open 12 more sites this year and reach 100 sites by September 2018.

Juice bars Fuel and Boost came just behind Ed’s Easy Diner in the fastest growing by new site openings chart.

“Both have found their niche in shopping malls where they can occupy small kiosks in otherwise unused areas away from food courts,” said the report.

“King’s Park Capital-backed Fuel has the larger estate, however, both brands have opened 11 new sites over the past three years, while Boost Juice Bars, currently with 17 outlets, aims to expand to 50 over the next four years.”

Other brands seeing rapid growth by site openings include the Restaurant Group’s American casual dining concept Coast to Coast, Mexican burrito specialist El Mexican and Bristol-based Chinese takeaway chain Hotcha.

Bubbling Under brands

The report also identified ‘Bubbling Under’ brands, which have less than five outlets and are yet to qualify as Ones to Watch.

Horizons said the main growth areas were Italian casual dining, Spanish casual dining and Japanese/sushi casual dining outlets, with names such as Italian casual dining operator Obika, Argentinian outlet Cau, and pasta quick service brand Coco di Mama set to make future appearance in Ones To Watch.

In total, there were 124 Bubbling Under brands identified in April 2014, compared with 88 in October.

Social media

Horizons found that use of social media has increased among both Ones to watch and Bubbling Under brands, with use of Facebook up 55 per cent and use of Twitter up 61 per cent since August 2011.

“Our survey indicates that for new brands looking to create a loyal following and establish themselves in the market with a limited marketing budget, social media is an essential tool, particularly for those targeting a young audience,” added Nicola Knight.

Interesting, Twitter was the most widely used social network amongst the One to Watch brands, while Bubbling Under brands used Facebook more widely.

Overall, Facebook – which was overtaken by Twitter as the dominant social media channel for emerging eating out brands in February 2013- has regained its lead.

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