Chopstix, the noodle bar operator, is developing two models - Express and Metro - to roll-out to small footprint locations focusing on motorway service stations and shopping centres, M&C has learnt.

Chopstix Express will be a half-scale version of its current noodle bar with one service counter serving up to five different toppings and noodles or rice as well as side dishes. Max Jenvey, marketing director for Chopstix Group, said the Express model will allow the company to deploy the model into smaller format and footprint, which then opens up convenience retailing.

”In the Irish market this sector is quite advanced – people often go to their local Spar or Londis for breakfast, lunch or dinner but the UK market is quickly catching up and Chopstix Express will allow small scale retailers to have a food to go offer,” Jenvey told M&C.

He said the group has signed an agreement to install the first Chopstix Express in a motorway service station operator in Q1 2016 to prove the concept before rolling the format out across its estate.

To enable Chopstix to install the Express format in smaller footprint spaces, the design includes self-extraction equipment that has been developed by a German manufacturer using carbon filters to eliminate odours.

The second brand development is Chopstix Metro, which not only includes the self-venting equipment but will reduce waste by cooking meals fresh to order.

The Metro format will allow Chopstix to operate in even more compact units by “turning the operation on its head” with ingredients kept chilled and dishes cooked to order instead of meals kept hot and sold to-go in under a minute.

Jevney said it can have a footprint of 2x2 or 3x3 meaning it can be deployed into smaller convenience stores and motorway forecourts with less footfall because there will be minimal waste as chefs will only use ingredients the customer is selecting for their meal but still have all the chef theatre of the food being cooked fresh on-site in front of the customer.

“This can be deployed as a really small format and unlike the existing noodle bar it doesn’t need a large kitchen facility to support the operation as it doesn’t need that back up prep facility,” Jevney said. “In terms of operators wanting to expand their offer and provide for customers’ needs from lunchtime through until the evening this presents a very exciting opportunity for them.”

Jenvey said these will complement but not detract from the Noodle Bar format, which he described as having a “stellar” year.

“The Noodle Bar is our parent brand: corporately we are still opening one site a month and under franchise we are still opening one site a month; that will continue for the next three to five years.”

Internationally Chopstix has attracted attention including signing a deal with the largest shopping centre operator in Poland to open an initial four Chopstix Noodle Bars at Polish shopping centres.

Jevney said Chopstix has started talking to one of the world’s largest steel manufacturers that is creating a food service division and interested in franchising the Chopstix brand in India. That company is looking to be a development/franchise partner for the Indian market targeting rail terminuses and shopping centres.

The group is targeting one international franchisee each year while developing the UK market for both corporate and franchise stores to open in multiple locations across rail, motorway services and shopping centres as well as on high streets with individual franchise partners.

In the Republic of Ireland Chopstix has opened units with Petrogas and AppleGreen, we’re also opening one corporate site a month in the UK. Applegreen UK are going to launch two Chopstix sites in the next few months as the first UK franchise partners.