Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons opening up to 20 cafes in Northern Ireland
Coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons is aiming to open between 15 and 20 of its stores in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The Canadian-owned firm is targeting the UK's biggest cities, and has already opened its first stand-alone store in Glasgow.
But it's now understood the company, which is operating under a franchise across the UK and Ireland, is now actively seeking up to 20 Northern Ireland locations, predominantly in Belfast.
One industry source said Tim Hortons was eyeing up as many as 20 stores in Belfast, with a similar number in cities such as Glasgow and Manchester. It's understood that commercial property agents have been appointed to oversee the roll-out.
Tim Hortons currently has no stores in Northern Ireland, or the Republic, but its products have been sold at convenience shops such as Spar.
A spokesman for Tim Hortons said: "While we know lots of towns and cities are excited to get their first Tim Hortons, we always keep our donuts close to our chest until we're ready to make an announcement."
It is one of the largest fast food chains in North America, and has around 4,600 stores.
It was founded in Canada in 1964 with a menu that includes coffee, speciality drinks, fresh baked goods, sandwiches and wraps.
It is known for its Iced Capp, a blended coffee drink, and its Timbits doughnut bites that come in a range of flavours, such as honey dip and apple fritter.
At the end of 2016, Tim Hortons first announced it was coming to the UK as part of the brand's global expansion. Restaurant Brands International said it had formed a master franchise joint venture with an investor.
When the company's first cafe opened at Glasgow's Argyle Street in spring, it said that a "nationwide expansion" was on the cards.
Gurprit Dhaliwal, chief operating officer at Tim Hortons UK and Ireland, said: "We've witnessed Tim Hortons' phenomenal success in Canada, and wanted to replicate this in Great Britain. It's hard to explain just how important Tim Hortons is to Canadians, it's not just a restaurant, it's a way of life and a place of 'home', and we're positive Great Britain will fall in love with the brand."
The chain's parent company, Canadian firm Restaurant Brands International, is one of the world's largest quick service restaurant companies, and also owns Burger King.
Restaurant Brands International has more than 19,000 restaurants in almost 100 countries.
Eight out of 10 cups of coffee sold across Canada are served at Tim Hortons and more than 5.3 million Canadians, approximately 15% of the population, visit the cafes daily.
It's the latest major high street food brand to expand to Northern Ireland.
In 2015, the Belfast Telegraph revealed bakery giant Greggs was eyeing as many as 50 locations across Northern Ireland.