The move is the first time the coffee and bakery chain has opened outlets outside shopping centres in the UK and comes after signing a joint venture with Elite Fuels - a forecourt retailer that operates franchises for Shell and BP. A second forecourt operation is due to open in the next few months.
Retail and brand director Michele Young said BB's is also in talks with another forecourt retailer about opening further branches. "We see huge potential for growth in this area and expect to have around 25 cafés in forecourts by the end of 2010. We can operate on a managed, franchise or joint venture basis," she said. BB's has piloted similar forecourt operations in Ireland over the last two years, she added.
The Middlesbrough store takes up around 20sq m in the petrol station's Revive shop and serves handmade muffins, freshly prepared sandwiches, snacks and espresso-based coffee. "Our muffins are made from scratch each day in our cafés and, if they are not eaten that day, they aren't sold," she said. "They are very different to our competitors' or other mass-manufactured products, which are thawed from frozen. We bake our baguettes each morning in our cafés and our sandwiches are hand-filled each day."
BB's manages the Middles-brough operation on behalf of the joint venture with Elite. "Our strength is in running forecourts, not foodservice operations," said Visvanathan Ramakrishnan, director of Elite Fuels. "So it makes sense for us to bring in an established brand with expertise in this area. BB's brings all the expertise in shop-fitting, operations, business development and marketing to make this potentially a profitable and head- ache-free venture for us."