Hotel Chocolat is set to ensure new stores are far larger than older ones, install cafes and offer up samples from their hot chocolate machines.

Chief executive Angus Thirlwell said sales of its Velvetiser were strong and he wanted to find new ways to ensure customers can test and buy them.

Four stores were expanded in the last six months with cafes and more floor space could be added and two new sites opened. Around 50 Hotel Chocolat stores already have cafes.

A further two sites will open in the next few months, he added.

Mr Thirlwell said: “We’re going to be showcasing a Hotel Chocolat ‘store of the future’ look.

“We upgraded several locations and we saw a shape of the future for stores which is basically to go for larger spaces and that’s a reflection of the shape of the business changing.

“We used to mostly be about gifting… that’s our cornerstone, but alongside that we have our home barista model and now have the ability to make bigger spaces work.”

He highlighted a store in Harrogate, which has been opened for 10 years, expanding fourfold, with a cafe added.

The hot chocolate machine has proved popular to the point that rivals are starting to make their own versions, including Aldi.

Angus ThirlwellThe chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, Angus Thirlwell, said sales of its Velvetiser were strong (BBC/PA)

German supermarket Aldi recently faced court action from M&S over allegations of copying the latter’s Colin the Caterpillar cake and has faced accusations of copying other brands previously.

Mr Thirlwell said: “As you’d expect, knock-off copies of any successful brand are always available and we’re no exception.

“We have several patents in various parts of our business and we’re not shy to protect our intellectual property but there’s nothing pending.”

The plans come as the company revealed sales in the six months to December 26 were up 40% to £142.9 million with pre-tax profits soaring 56% to £24.1 million.

The growth was primarily due to weak comparisons, with much of the high street shut in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Thirlwell said sales could have been higher but they were affected by the Omicron variant closing stores due to staff illness and large numbers of customers either ill or in self-isolation.

The number of UK customers increase 38% to 2.3 million and sales were strong despite rising inflation leading to prices going up towards the end of last year.

Looking forward, the company added it aims to create more jobs in its chocolate factory as it ramps up production and brings new products into the market.

There was also strong growth in its US and Japan markets, particularly in online sales.