The report found a 19 per cent increase year-on-year in the number of operators planning expansion, reflecting strong predicted growth in the eating-out sector for 2015.
Ninety-two per cent of operators are targeting London for expansion, up from 82 per cent in 2014, while 89 per cent are focusing on regional town centres and high streets.
Horizons’ foodservice analyst Nicola Knight said: “The fact these small brands have stepped up their expansion plans is great news for the UK’s hospitality sector - it shakes up the market by bringing new concepts to the public and challenges existing operators, but we have to ask whether the UK market can take such high levels of expansion in the long term.”
Shopping centres were the top target for expansion (86 per cent), along with out-of-town retail parks (63 per cent) and transport hubs (83 per cent).
Operators reported that the cost and availability of property was the biggest challenge to overcome (38 per cent), alongside staffing (18 per cent) and food costs (six per cent).
Despite Italian and steakhouse sites reporting slow annual growth in the past five years, Horizon’s tipped the concepts as Ones to Watch alongside healthy fast-food, Mexican burrito brands and coffee shops.
Birmingham-based Indian burrito restaurant Wrapchic was the fastest growing brand in percentage terms over the last three years, opening ten outlets since its launch in 2012. The brand aims to double its size this year.
American import Five Guys has capitalised on the gourmet burger boom to open the highest number of new outlets in the survey, launching 26 sites since 2013. The brand eventually plans to expand to 175-200.
Franchised Chozen Noodle was the second largest in terms of growth, expanding from four outlets to 15 in two years.
Dessert café operator Creams Café was the third largest, growing from three to 17 outlets in 2012-15. The company aims to have 40 sites by the end of this year.
Horizon's previously predicted that the UK eating-out sector was set to grow a further £10bn by 2019, driven by smaller brands expanding to high street chains.
The analyst surveyed 141 operators for its Ones to Watch survey, which tracks the growth of fledgling chains on the high street.