High street sandwich and coffee chain EAT will open 10 central London stores between January and July next year following a major rebrand. 

The rebrand has focused on EAT’s retail appearance, including store look and branding.

Since the refurbishment programme started 18 months ago 75% of shops have been upgraded, with all remaining to be completed by year-end. Figures show a result of like-for-likes up 10% since and a further £12m has been put forward by independent private investment company Ardian to fund the 10 new sites next year and further new openings in the company’s new financial year from July. Sites have yet to be confirmed.

London focus

From July the brand plans to open 30 new sites a year, focusing on London, cities where it already has a presence such as Manchester and Birmingham, as well as regions where it has yet to make its mark, such as Bristol and Leeds. Of 113 shops, 90 are in and around the M25 bubble.

Sarah Doyle, brand director, told British Baker: “We’re aware that we are under-represented in central London and it is a strong urban market.

“We have to smash it with these first 10 and I know we’ll do that in London because the brand is well-known.

“We are going for sites that are big enough to take seating – around 1,500sq ft as it is not just about food to go.” Around 80% of customers choose not to sit and eat, but part of the rebranding effort has been to make stores inviting and encourage people to stay to eat.

Doyle confirmed that transport hubs will be a target for new sites and the company will bid as opportunities come up. It has paired with advertising agency Brave for the first time to improve its communications with customers and is also focusing on sampling and social media to drive awareness.

Sales mix

Hot food such as soup, pies and the hot pots launched two years ago, is seeing the biggest growth for the brand, accounting for 15% of total sales value in the year to date, displaying 10% growth. Cold food such as sandwiches and salads accounts for 40% and is in 6% growth; breakfast items including porridge, bacon rolls and pastries account for 10% and is in 4% growth; and hot drinks account for 15% and are in 15% growth.

Doyle has noted a switch among customers to salads, which are in 40% year-on-year growth, albeit from a lower base.