Little Chef is to overhaul its restaurant concept with a grab-and-go brand called Coffee Tempo!
The 235-strong chain of roadside diners will unveil the first unit at its Amesbury restaurant in Wiltshire tomorrow (10 February).
The site - on the A303 - is the first of 17 to be rolled out before Easter as the company targets the roadside market with pastries, cappuccinos and hot sandwiches. The initial roll-out will cost £1m.
The second site will be located at Scotch Corner, on the A1 in North Yorkshire, and the brand will eventually go nationwide.
Little Chef development director Nick Smith, who moved from BP's Wild Bean café to create the concept, said: "We are building on a strong catering base to add a retail aspect to what we do. As we roll out, we will tweak the format to see what the best set-up is."
The Coffee Tempo! units will sit within existing restaurants and occupy an average of 15sq m - each with between two and four high tables. Smith hopes to attract between 1,400 and 2,100 customers (and bring in £3,000 to £4,000) per week at each unit.
Little Chef owner Lawrence Wosskow said he had initially talked to Costa Coffee about a franchise deal but decided on developing an in-house brand. "This way we can put in the product range we want and we don't have to pay Costa the large franchise fee it wanted," he said.
Food service consultant Jonathan Doughty said time would tell whether the decision was prudent. "The quandary is whether a big brand brings in enough sales to justify the fee. Maybe they should have trialled both options first," he said.
The group plans to spend £1m on changing the signage across its portfolio and Smith did not rule out altering the Little Chef logo in the future. "We will look at everything, including the Fat Charlie logo, and make necessary changes as we go along," he said.
By Tom Bill