Starbucks, the global coffee chain, has reportedly signed its first franchise agreement in the UK, and said it was looking to open more roadside and transport hub sites. In an interview with The Independent, Kris Engskov, managing director of Starbucks UK & Ireland, said that the brand was in “very good health” and said the chain was “trying to do something different to rival Costa” rather than match it number wise. The newspaper said that the group had signed its first franchise partner for the country, but did not reveal any further details. It is thought that the model would remain a small part of the overall business. He said: “The brand is in very good health. We are doing very well at the top line. The challenge is to get these naughty fundamentals of making sure the top-line success translates into the bottom line… We now have to pick up the pace.” He told the newspaper that the chain had a dated portfolio with very high rents in the UK, which has led to the company putting a number of its central London sites on the market. Earlier this year, the group said that it plans to open 300 outlets over the next five years, of which a third will come from its licence agreement with the petrol forecourt retailer Euro Garages. It current trails behind market leader Costa in terms of store numbers. Engskov said: "Of course Costa is a very strong competitor in an incredibly competitive market, but I'd like to think that we were trying to do something different. We're not focused on knocking out as many cookie-cutter stores as possible across the country so that we can say we're the bigger than them – that's not our focus and it's not how we'll judge our success in the UK. We know we have to be in the right places, but we also have to be better and different to the opposition.”