Fast-growing sandwich chain EAT is confident of doubling store numbers in the next three to five years.
Recent openingsainclude Glasgow airport and three in London during the last month (EC4, EC3 and Holborn), taking the total to 98. EAT will reach the big 100 in September.
"We have more in the pipeline that we are yet to sign on, and we aim to have 200 shops within the next three to five years," said MD Niall MacArthur, who added that the credit crunch also created more available properties. "The EAT format fits well anywhere in the country where there is high footfall and an appreciation of good food."
The company was thriving, said MacArthur, despite the difficult economic climate: "It’s tough but we’re in a good part of the sector - we focus on quality food and make it all ourselves. We also have great service and lovely shops - we’re a strong brand that’s very recognisable and we have high customer loyalty."
He said constant innovation was another point of difference from other sandwich chains and that EAT would continue to regularly launch new products. Soups change seasonally and there is a range of 40 to choose from during any four-week menu; the most recent launch is Pho soup in prawn, beef or chicken varieties, picked up from the chiller and filled with broth by counter staff.
Sandwiches of the week are, for example: ham, Cheddar and real ale pickle; prawn cocktail; Thai citrus chicken; and tuna, ginger and wasabi.
Other interesting initiatives are pies served in a hot box which opens at the corners to make a plate, and a breakfast range, including three toasted muffins: eggs benedict, egg, cheese and mushroom and a bacon butty.
Niall and wife Faith abandoned plans to sell the chain last year after they failed to find suitors matching their reported £150m valuation for the company, founded in 1996.