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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 4th Apr 2014 - Breaking News - Boom in fledgling brands as entrepreneurs seize the moment
Boom in fledgling brands as entrepreneurs seize the moment: Entrepreneurial operators are seizing the opportunity to roll out new eating-out concepts at a faster rate than the sector has seen for several years as the economy returns to growth, according to the latest Ones to Watch report from the foodservice consultancy Horizons. The report found that Ed’s Easy Diner is the fastest growing brand by number of site openings, with 24 outlets currently, up from seven in 2011, and a further 12 new openings planned, with the aim of reaching 100 sites by September 2018. However, the majority of small but growing concepts are in the Italian, healthy and sandwich bar markets. Brands seeing the biggest growth by site openings include the Restaurant Group’s American casual dining concept Coast to Coast, which has expanded from just one outlet in 2011 to 11 in 2014. The Restaurant Group has plans to open between four and six further sites this year, with the brand in some locations sitting comfortably alongside its Frankie and Benny’s and Chiquito outlets. The juice bar specialists Fuel and Boost have each opened 11 sites in the past three years. Both have found their niche in shopping malls where they can occupy small kiosks in otherwise unused areas away from food courts. Fuel, backed by King’s Park Capital, has the larger estate, while Boost Juice Bars, currently with 17 outlets, aims to expand to 50 over the next four years. The Mexican burrito specialist El Mexicana has grown from one outlet in 2011 at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield to nine in 2014. The concept has been successfully rolled out by targeting motorway services and shopping centres with its take on authentic Mexican street food. The Bristol-based Chinese takeaway chain Hotcha is another seeing rapid growth. It now has nine outlets, with a 10th opening in May. The business, led by entrepreneur James Liang, plans to open a further 150 outlets across the UK over the next five years and currently has a turnover in excess of £1.5m. The number of fledgling brands qualifying for inclusion in the report, by having between five and 25 outlets and a growth in outlet numbers of at least 20% over the past three years combined, has risen to 115, from 105 six months ago in October 2013. The main area for growth for “Bubbling Under” brands, those with under five outlets which have yet to qualify for “Ones To Watch” status, are Italian casual dining, Spanish casual dining and Japanese/sushi casual dining outlets. Names such as the Italian casual dining operator Obika, the Argentinian steak chain Cau, and the pasta quick service brand Coco di Mama look set to see a future appearance in Ones To Watch. Overall the survey reported 124 of these fledgling brands in April 2014, up from 88 in October 2013. Nicola Knight, Horizons’ director of services, and the author of the report, said: “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. 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.” The report reveals that social media presence among new and growing brands has grown considerably over the past six months as operators look to market themselves, learn from and interact with their customers and build a loyal following. Facebook, which was overtaken by Twitter as the dominant social media channel in February 2013, has now regained its lead. Some 92% of the survey’s smaller Bubbling Under brands have a Facebook page, against 86% with a Twitter presence. The visual capabilities of Facebook brand pages and the sophisticated advertising tools available may explain this. Across all Ones To Watch and Bubbling Under brands the use of Facebook has grown 10% and Twitter 6% since October 2013, and by 55% and 61% respectively since August 2011. Knight said: “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. Among the more established Ones To Watch brands, Twitter is still the most widely used social network, with 89% of operators having a Twitter account, and 87% having a Facebook page.”
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