Costa just fired a shot across Pret a Manger's bow

Britain's biggest coffee chain wants to gobble up a bigger share of the lunch market.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 12 Jan 2016

The lunch-to-go market is getting pretty saturated, especially in London. Walking around the capital it’s hard to move without seeing the burgundy fascia of a Pret a Manger. The same is true of Greggs in parts of the north.

Now the coffee chain Costa wants a bigger slice of the action. Though its shops already sell paninis, toasties and cake, the company is trialling a new ‘food-led concept store’ that gives an insight into its potential plans for the future. Costa Fresco’s menu ‘features handcrafted ('handmade' not good enough?) ciabattas and pastries, warm melt in the mouth cookies and fresh fruit juices, all using quality ingredients'.

The chain hopes its range of ‘rustico dry cured ham and mature cheddar flatbreads’ and ‘roasted pork belly with caramelised braeburn apple and onion ciabattas’ will get the capital’s office workers salivating. It also ‘features designated zones for relaxing’, which sounds like the least relaxed way to relax ever.

‘The opening of Costa Fresco is a reflection of exciting things to come from Costa,’ said its global brand and innovation director Carol Welch. ‘We are committed to continuing to innovate and delight our customers with what they want – quality food, alongside irresistible coffee in a warm, welcoming environment.’

‘Premiumising’ its lunch menu seems right on trend. Greggs has made great hay from its revamped menu, which is focused more on soups and salads and less on steak bakes and sticky buns. In April, private equity-backed Pret looked to squeeze its assets by trialling a new evening format, complete with table service, alcohol and pulled pork quinoa pots.

But competition is fierce and the capital’s office drones have more choice than ever. Asian chains Itsu (another business from Pret co-founder Julian Metcalfe), Wasabi and Abokado have all soared in popularity in recent years alongside ‘healthy fast food’ options like Leon and Pod. Against that backdrop there’s little wonder Costa is having to up its game – consumers want more than a chicken and bacon toastie.

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