CADBURY is to launch a chain of high street cafes serving afternoon tea and chocolates after new owner Kraft gave the plans the green light, it was reported today.
It is understood a deal to open Cadbury-branded outlets was signed in January just before Kraft secured its £11.5 billion hostile takeover.
But the US company is thought to have thrown its weight behind the idea, endorsing a 20-year licence to a group of retail entrepreneurs to lead the venture, including David Morris, the former director of Food & Restaurants at Harrods.
The cafes are reportedly set to be called Cadbury Cocoa Houses, offering affordable afternoon tea and a dedicated chocolatier service that will make large versions of Cadbury chocolate bars on site, such as Twirls, Curly Wurlys and Flakes, that can be wrapped as gifts.
As many as 60 sites could be opened across the UK over the next three to five years, with negotiations already starting with landlords with a view to possibly launching in London before the end of the year, according to reports.
But it is believed that while Kraft has sanctioned the move, it is not providing financial backing.
Cadbury is said to have been in discussions over the plans for several years.
The Dairy Milk maker once ran a small cafe in Bath, but it closed after six years in 2007.
Mr Morris is expected to become chief executive of the venture, with retail entrepreneur Marilyn Newman as chairman.
The launch would come at a robust time for the coffee shop sector, which has shown remarkable resilience throughout the recession.
While many high street rivals have fallen by the wayside, the consumer spending woes spared many coffee shop retailers and they have even been expanding throughout the recession.
Recent figures showed that the six biggest players increased shop numbers by 47% in the year to September 2009.
Cadbury was not immediately available for comment.