Coffee chain Costa is closing the gap at the top of the BB75 tracker of store numbers, as the 2011 half-year update of figures shows.

The new data, published in the current issue of British Baker, shows that Costa, in third position in the league, had added 82 outlets to its estate as of the end of June, bringing its total to 1,257 outlets. That means it is responsible for nearly half of all the store launches of the Top 10 players so far this year.

The Whitbread-owned chain acquired coffee vending firm Coffee Nation in March, announcing plans to launch a new drinks-only brand, Costa Express. It will target the self-serve coffee bar sector opening at a target of 3,000 outlets in the next five years. It is also trialling a drive-thru concept in Nottingham, and plans to have six pilot outlets in the UK by the end of 2012.

Costa’s bullish progress means it is closing the gap on US giant Subway, which had 1,427 outlets in the UK at the end of June, having opened only seven new franchises in the year to date.

Greggs remains at the top of the tree with 1,518 outlets, up 39 on the start of the half year. Meanwhile, Starbucks in fourth place, shows signs of recovery as a three-year turnaround programme reaches its conclusion. The chain opened 24 new outlets in the UK in the half-year period, and now has 730 outlets.

British Baker’s annual BB75 league table ranks the largest 75 bakery, café and food-to-go chains by number of shops.

>>BB75 half-year update - Holding the fort

>>Bakery retailers see a rise in outlet openings

>>BB75 2011