Soho Coffee Co is looking to add another six sites to its estate per year – a revision on the target of 10 it had set at the end of last year.
Managing director Penny Manuel told MCA that 40+ strong business was currently at heads of terms on three UK sites – two of which are in London – all of which are due to open by September.
“We’ll continue to look at key towns and cities. The preference would be to focus on high street locations rather than shopping malls, as you have much greater control over those sites,” explained Manuel. However, she said it was important not to play the numbers game, and to make sure the business was opening in the right locations.
“Shopping malls are currently a tough trading environment because of the struggle that the retailers themselves are facing, so you don’t want to rely just on a retail customer, but anybody and everybody who is out on the high street, where they are going to work or a tourist,” she added.
The coffee chain recently opened a new location with its partner in Faro airport, Portugal, and is due to open in Lisbon airport later this year.
Manuel said like-for-like sales were holding up, but performance varied a lot dependent on geography. “Our London stores are holding strong and the Midlands is performing well, but in the South West – with the exception of Bath – and Bristol, and those stores associated with retail malls, things are more challenging,” she said.
“Everyone is trying to de-risk at the moment,” she said. “We’d all love to be in travel hubs. For us, the ideal would be to build up that side of the business, but that would be a long-burn as those opportunities don’t come up very often.”
Manuel said that in terms of other development work, it is continually evolving the brand and said the next openings would reflect that. “We have just done our big spring/summer menu launch, and will be bring out further new products at the end of the summer,” she said.
Manuel added that the business was embracing the trend for vegan and vegetarian food, with around half of its range now vegetarian, and a quarter that is also vegan.
The group also operates the six-strong Euphorium Bakery chain, which it acquired from Tesco in 2016. In the same year, it acquired the 15 Apostrophe restaurants, which have since been either converted to the Soho or Euphorium brands or disposed of.
In its most recent financial results – for the year to 31 January – parent company BTC Hospitality grew turnover from £8.4m to £12.9m, however pre-tax losses increased from £3.1m to £6.3m.