Bakery chain Cooks, previ-ously Three Cooks, says it is “actively looking” for new

stores, as it rolls out its new “Cooks” store format.

Chairman Geoff Peppiatt said the Cooks concept has now been finalised after trials in five of its 190 shops over the last year. The concept will be rolled out to 22 stores in the next three months, and the company plans to refurbish its entire estate in the next 18 months to two years.

He commented: “We are pretty convinced we have got the format right. We have increased our food-to-go offer as people are buying more sandwiches. And we have embraced the coffee culture, as the coffee chains, such as Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee, have taken that out to provincial towns.”

At the same time, Cooks is “actively looking at openings at the moment”, although it is kee-ping its plans secret for now. It wants to expand and improve the quality of its estate, moving out of areas where sales are poorer. Mr Peppiatt said: “With electricity, rates and rents on the increase, we will not throw money at stores that do not work.”

The recent news that Mid-lands bakery chain M Firkin is in administration (British Baker, January 20, pg 3) is evidence of how hard it is to survive, he added. However, he believes Cooks has a “model that works” in a harsh trading environment. It is the UK’s only large bakery chain that does not manufacture its own products, but buys in a high-quality range and bakes-off in-store. “It is pretty difficult for a craft baker to produce a broad range in relatively small volumes competitively. I believe it is much better to buy in a high quality product,” he said.

Cooks is the UK’s third-lar-gest retail bakery chain, behind Greggs, with 1,319 shops, and Lyndale Foods, with 230 stores.