Esquires Coffee Houses UK has announced plans to grow its franchise by another eight stores in the UK, by summer 2009.

The company, now in its tenth year of trading, currently has 25 outlets in the UK. It opened the first of its planned eight outlets in Letchworth Garden City, Herfordshire a couple of weeks ago and hopes to have another open by the end of February.

Peter Kirton, managing director of Esquires Coffee Houses UK, said he had identified a number of locations that he believed would fit with Esquires’ offering. "We’ve had an overwhelming level of interest in the Esquires Coffee Houses franchise operation over the past year," said Kirton. "Though we are not able to disclose exact locations at this point, I am pleased to say that the new stores will be well spread across the country."

Kirton sees the business as direct competition with the likes of Caffè Nero and Coffee Republic, but said the business hasn’t got the same presence yet, due to its lack of London sites.

The coffee chain offers a range of sandwiches, paninis, sweet pastries, cakes and muffins, some of which are baked-off on-site. It also sells only Fairtrade certified teas, coffees and hot chocolate.

In terms of changes to the food offering in future, Kirton said Esquires was considering offering more baked-off products in its outlets. "We’re continually reviewing our offering and also considering healthier options," he added.

The chain’s Canadian parent company has also just announced agreements to open a combined total of 585 stores across China, India, the Middle East and Egypt, as part of the firm’s plans to further expand its internatio- nal franchises.