Knoops plans to open 120 UK stores in bid to rival Starbucks
Chocolate drinks specialist Knoops is planning to open more than 120 UK stores over the next five years in a bid to make the brand "the next Starbucks".
Jens Knoops, founder of the eponymous brand, opened his first shop in Rye in April 2013. The group now offers more than 22 different hot chocolates, six different milkshakes and six different iced chocolates across its 10 sites.
In 2019, Knoops was approached by investor and now executive chairman William Gordon-Harris, who devised an expansion plan for the business.
Speaking to The Caterer at the opening of Knoops' tenth store in London's Knightsbridge, Gordon-Harris said: "I've invested in loads of businesses hands off, but the reason I'm sitting here as chief executive and chairman is because this needs a visionary driver. We are creating a sector and the prize is owning that sector, and that sector is bigger than coffee.
"Coffee has come about because the coffee revolution was created; it wasn't drunk in England. Chocolate was the luxury people drank. It's deep within us; all we are doing is reawakening it."
He said Knoops had a target of reaching 15 stores by July this year, with a location secured in Manchester, which is due to launch this spring, as well as London's St John's Wood and Notting Hill.
Revenue will also be supplemented by online and offline sales in retail outlets such as Selfridge's and Harrods.
Gordon-Harris said Knoops could open around 120 UK stores in similar cathedral cities as the Ivy Grill casual dining chain. The brand will look at expanding into foreign markets from the end of this year, with North America, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Mexico seen as potential sites for global expansion.
Although he predicted that Knoops will have "growing pains" while it expands, Gordon-Harris said that as a "very simple business" it would be easier to scale than food-based brands.
Jens said he was confident that it was the right time to expand as he had met "the right people who know how to grow a business".
"Covid has proven that there is a desire for this – we had very long queues outside the stores when we were legally able to open," he said.
High street coffee chains including Starbucks and Caffè Nero this month announced plans to expand after trading returned to pre-pandemic levels, with Starbucks pouring £30m into its UK arm of the business.
Jens added: "I always say thank you Starbucks for preparing a generation of non-coffee drinkers to choices. We are spearheading something very new. Of course, we have coffee here, but the main focus is on the chocolate.
"Nobody dares to do it because we – I would say – are the market leader of chocolate drinks. There's a real person behind it who also drinks chocolate all day long."