Coffee industry bubbling over as Costa set to open latest Belfast shop
Costa Coffee looks set to open a new shop in the heart of Belfast - creating at least a dozen new jobs - as it competes with almost 40 other branches of coffee chains in the city.
It is understood the form will soon take over the former Jean Scene store on Castle Place, across the road from Donegall Arcade.
Costa Coffee is run as a separate franchise across Northern Ireland and the Republic by Cork-based MBCC Foods Ireland, which operates 20 outlets north of the border.
It did not wish to comment on the details of the new shop.
The building was one of several in the area left without a tenant after fashion store Jean Scene pulled out of the spot.
It is believed the deal for the premises was completed through US vulture fund Cerberus.
It was placed on the market by commercial property firm CBRE and is now listed as "let agreed".
The building was sold along with 8-18 Castle Place to Ewart Properties in 2004.
Costa Coffee already has four spots across greater Belfast, including one at the Victoria Square shopping centre.
Northern Ireland has around 60 coffee shops from the big three chains alone.
Costa will be competing with a host of big names close by, including Starbucks just a couple of doors down.
There are now nine Starbucks stores throughout Belfast, with the other big UK brand, Caffe Nero, growing quickly to 10 shops in the city alone.
The coffee industry is continuing to expand, growing by more than 10% nationwide in 2014, with more than 18,000 outlets across the UK. That figure is expected to soar further still, up to 27,000 by 2020.
It is the arrival of some of the big chains to Northern Ireland's high streets that bolstered the interest here.
The biggest increase in store numbers has been at Caffe Nero, despite it only setting up shop here a few years ago.
It has 18 branches across Northern Ireland, with half of those based in Belfast. Across the UK as a whole, it is Costa Coffee that dominates the marketplace.
But Northern Ireland's home-grown coffee businesses are also continuing to expand throughout the city.
Clements now has 10 shops scattered across Belfast, with several others elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
And while Ground Espresso has just two shops in the city - one in Next and another in Waterstones - it has grown its reach across the province to 14 stores, and it also has an outlet in Dublin.
It now employs around 200 staff, and added more than a dozen to its workforce back in September when it launched its Magherafelt store.
Earlier this year, the company announced three new stores would open at the fashion chain Next, including in Lisnagelvin Retail Park, Londonderry, Enniskillen and Bangor's Bloomfield.
Also earlier this year, brothers Edmund and Ronan Byrne expanded their California Coffee shop.
The pair have been running the business on Arthur Street for the past 15 years.
But they have now expanded with a much larger business on Ann Street, creating 40 new jobs as part of a major £1m investment.