UK upmarket retailer Waitrose has signed a franchise deal with motorway services operator Welcome Break to open a number of shops in its service stations.

The grocery division of the John Lewis Partnership is to open two 2,500sq ft food shops at Welcome Break motorway service areas, the company said today (1 April).

The deal will create 50 jobs and will offer over 850 lines operating from 7am until 10pm, 365 days a year.

The first shop will open on 1 May at Oxford Services on the M40, one of Europe’s busiest motorway service stations. The second outlet will open at South Mimms on the M25 on 15 May.

The deal follows the retailer’s announcement in January that up to 4,000 new workers were to join Waitrose with the opening of 22 new stores in 2009.

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Waitrose managing director Mark Price, said: “This move into franchising and motorway service areas builds on our recent ventures into other new formats such as Market Town and Convenience – all designed to provide flexibility around our growth ambitions and increase awareness of our brand.

“It’s a challenging economic environment, but we continue to grow our share of regular visitors and our 200th store is about to open in Islington. With the recent launch of essential Waitrose, we’ve never offered better value for money. This is a very exciting time for Waitrose.”

In addition to everyday items such as sandwiches, salads and drinks, customers will also be able to carry out a ‘top up’ shop on items such as bread, milk and ready meals, the retailer said.

“We plan to deliver a new dimension in motorway hospitality – the same quality experience people expect from Waitrose with excellent customer service,” said Waitrose commercial director Richard Hodgson.

“The Welcome Break deal is already a positive impact on our business partners. For example, our sandwich supplier is investing over GBP3m (US$4.3m) in developing its site to meet the increased demand.”