Newtownards next on menu for drive-thru coffee shop
The trend of drive-thru coffee shops is set to continue in Northern Ireland with the latest outlet now planned for Co Down.
Killultagh Estates Ltd, which owns the Castlebawn Shopping Centre in Newtownards, has submitted a planning application for a new drive-thru next to the complex.
The company already has a relationship with both Starbucks and Tim Hortons.
The North American coffee giants will soon both have drive-thru outlets at the Connswater Shopping Centre in east Belfast, which is owned by Killultagh Estates.
Connswater was the test site for Starbucks' first Northern Ireland drive-thru last year.
Now Tim Hortons will open a rival outlet at the east Belfast retail complex next month.
Starbucks has already moved to open additional drive-thru stores at the Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor and at the Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon.
Tim Hortons opened its first Northern Ireland coffee shop in Belfast city centre in May.
The Canadian company has already submitted a planning application for its third outlet - a drive-thru at the Riverside Shopping Centre in Coleraine.
The £900,000 development includes plans for two separate drive-thru coffee shops on the site, with Tim Hortons only expected to occupy one of the units.
No terms have yet been agreed for the occupant of the new Castlebawn development.
However, it's understood that Killultagh is keen to work with both of the North American franchises in future projects.
Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne said the speed of the spread of international coffee chains could soon see them dominate not only the cities, but smaller towns.
"The march of the coffee shops continues relentlessly but unexpectedly. The landscape is as densely populated by chains as it is with independents in Northern Ireland," he said.
"At this rate, however, the Tim Hortons, Caffe Neros, Starbucks and Costas will dominate the smaller towns in the coming months.
"It follows a pattern where the chains multiply quickly in the large urban centres before rippling out to the suburbs and smaller towns."
At 30 stores, Caffe Nero has the widest network of coffee shops in Northern Ireland to date.
Starbucks has expanded to 24 stores, while independent coffee chain Bob & Berts has 16 outlets and Costa has around 20.
Tim Hortons has just opened one to date, with two more soon to follow.