Quality food-on-the-go has become the key growth area in the UK’s eating out market with concepts consistently emerging in transport hubs and shopping centres as well as high streets locations, as consumers increasingly eat when they want, where they want, according to leading foodservice consultancy Horizons

The group’s the latest Ones to Watch report found 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 as well as upmarket coffee shops, a continued growth in street food and outlets specialising in healthy food.

Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman said: “A wider variety of takeaway foods are available as consumers expect better quality food-on-the-go. 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.”

It said that transport hubs were now providing more space for eating out brands. London’s Kings Cross station now has triple the concourse space and features established foodservice brands Burger King, Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger and Starbucks as well as up and coming Ones to Watch brands such as Benito’s Hat Mexican Kitchen (burrito quick service) and Yalla Yalla (Lebanese street food).

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

It said that many of the new concepts 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.

The group also highlighted that coffee shops continue to be a UK success story with high street brands expanding their repertoire as consumers becoming more knowledgeable and discerning about coffee

It said: “While the market is still dominated by Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero, smaller brands are offering something different - perhaps a local feel or a higher quality coffee. Artisan coffee shops, with an emphasis on quality beans, top spec espresso machines, expert baristas and often latte art, also add a point of differentiation to the larger chains. .

“Last month Tesco, in partnership with the founders of the Taylor St Baristas chain, opened the first Harris + Hoole artisan coffee shop in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, while Greggs the Baker opened Greggs Moment in Newcastle, with three more planned.

“Ones to Watch demonstrates that there is a continued appetite for food and coffee on the go, but consumers are demanding a better quality and wider variety which the specialists are moving in to provide.”

Horizons defines Ones to Watch companies as having 5-12 outlets and for showing growth rates, in terms of outlet numbers, of at least 20% over the past three years combined.

It current Top Five are coffee shops (quick service), pub restaurants (casual dining), healthy eating (quick service), gourmet burgers (casual dining) and frozen yoghurt (quick service).

Horizons’ bubbling under brands are those currently with less than five outlets, but which are showing signs of significant growth for the future.

They include: Mexican burrito fast casual, street food, tea bar, Brazilian churrascaria, British restaurants, Japanese quick service and Spanish restaurants.