Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Battle of the BLTs; SANDWICH CHAIN 'EAT' WINS TASTE TEST AS IT PLANS MAJOR EXPANSION

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Battle of the BLTs; SANDWICH CHAIN 'EAT' WINS TASTE TEST AS IT PLANS MAJOR EXPANSION

Article excerpt

Byline: LECH MINTOWT-CZYZ;KIRAN RANDHAWA

THE WAR for the office worker's lunchtime loyalty has seen supermarkets, coffee shops and specialist outlets compete with lowered prices and ever more exotic fillings in an attempt to sell their sandwiches.

Now fresh sandwich chain EAT is stepping up the high street war, plotting an aggressive expansion of its operations by doubling its shops in London to 70.

With any luck, the only casualty should be those soggy, tasteless sandwiches with miserly fillings.

To find out exactly what competition EAT will face as it attempts to take on old favourites such as Marks & Spencer and " boutique" chains such as Pret A Manger, the Standard asked celebrity chef Rowley Leigh, of the Kensington Place restaurant, to sample the topselling sandwiches from seven high street sandwich shops. The results make grim reading for Pret - which didn't even make the top three - and should provide a wakeup call for the others in the war. After samplingsandwiches from EAT, Pret, M&S, Waitrose, Benjys, Boots and Starbucks, Leigh declared EAT to be ahead of its adversaries by "quite some margin".

According to the British Sandwich Association, Britain's sandwich industry is worth about [pounds sterling]3.5billion.

Recent research by market analyst Mintel suggested the sector could be expected to grow by around eight per cent a year.

EAT, founded by Niall MacArthur with his wife Faith nine years ago with one shop in Villiers Street, now employs 130 people and had sales worth [pounds sterling]37.7 million in the year to June from its 41 outlets.

Mr MacArthur says he is the business brains while Faith is the creator of the fillings and soups.

Such has been the success of the combination that about 200,000 people a week now use EAT and it sold two million servings of soup in the past 12 months.

The chain, which does not disclose its profits, is due to expand to 100 shops nationwide with [pounds sterling]39million of refinancing from venture capitalists Penta Capital and Barclays bank.

HOW THEY COMPARE: ROWLEY LEIGH'S VERDICT

Winner: EAT

Ham and Jarlsberg on a white baguette, [pounds sterling]2. …

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