Encouraged by growing economic confidence, small restaurant chains are expanding at a faster rate than at any time in the past few years, according to Horizon's Ones to Watch report.
The survey found that Italian casual dining and sandwich bar quick service concepts were seeing the greatest growth.
It picked out the Restaurant Group's American casual dining concept Coast to Coast, which has expanded from one outlet in 2011 to 11 in 2014, as seeing particularly rapid growth. There are plans for four to six more sites this year.
Meanwhile, Mexican burrito chain El Mexicana has grown from one outlet in Sheffield in 2011 to nine in motorway services and shopping centres by 2014.
Horizon's said that Ed's Easy Diner was the fastest growing by site openings, just in front of juice bars Fuel and Boost. The American diner brand now has 24 outlets, up from seven in 2011, with 12 planned as it looks to reach a target of 100 sites by 2018.
To qualify for inclusion in Ones to Watch a concept must have between five and 25 outlets and a growth in outlet numbers of at least 20% in the past three years combined.
Those that have fallen short of the criteria, yet are likely to make an impact soon, are considered Bubbling under Brands. This year they include Italian casual dining operator Obika, Argentinian outlet Cau, and pasta quick service brand Coco di Mama.
Horizons' director of services Nicola Knight 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."
She added that the brands looking to establish themselves with a limited budget were using social media to target a young audience.
"Amongst 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," Knight said.