EAT, the Lyceum Capital-backed group, has seen like-for-like sales grow by 10% since it began rebranding its stores and is preparing to return to restart growing its estate from January 2015. 

The company has successfully converted 75% of its 113 sites to the new look and will have completed the estate by the end of the year.

Sarah Doyle,brand director at EAT said, rebranding - which began 18 months ago - has resulted in 10% uptick in like-for-like saes over the last two year and attracted investment of £12m from Ardian, the premium independent private investment company, to open new stores.

Doyle told M&C Report the company is planning to open 10 stores in the first six month of 2015 with a focus on London. After that EAT is targeting 30 new sites each year in urban areas including Leeds and Bristol where it currently has no store presence.

“The brand is well known in London but there are some obvious gaps in our portfolio,” Doyle said.  

New sites will be opened “as and when they come up”, however Doyle said the property team is already in negotiations on a number of London sites.

“We are going for sites that are big enough to take seating, the average will be in excess of 1500sq ft. to accommodate food to go and seating.” 

Speaking at Lunch! event at London’s Business Design Centre, Doyle said seating has formed a central part of the rebranding programme to make stores more inviting for customers. Although 80% of EAT customers do not sit down in the shop the comfortable seating “makes it look like the shop wants customers to come in”.

She added it has been effective in changing the way customers use EAT stores, with a rise in the numbers of people choosing to sit in its stores in the morning and mid-afternoon for informal meetings.

The new look includes changing the corporate colour form brown to egg yolk yellow and comfortable seating areas to be more welcoming to customers.

Egg yolk yellow was chosen to reflect the positivity of the brand and give “a more passionate image” with a colour that stands out on the high street.

The re-branding involved decluttering the stores to create more space. EAT examined the process people experience when they walk in to an EAT store to emphasis the hot food to go options and remind customers of the products that cannot be bought elsewhere.

The new focus of stores became blackboards and menus for the hot food range before customers saw the fridges.

Doyle told M&C Report that hot food has been the greatest area of growth and accounts for c.15% of overall revenue. Coffee sales have also seen growth however sandwiches have been flat.

“The market over all is in decline as people move away from bread but we are holding our own in terms of sandwiches. We are moving in to things like wraps that are less ‘bready’ and perceived as healthy as people are becoming more health conscious.” 

The EAT brand had not changed its image in 10 years and it was facing flat like for like sales after 16 years of solid growth.

Doyle joined the company in 2012 to refresh its image. “I have only done the top tier so far; we will constantly evolve.”