Upmarket frozen ready meals retailer Cook opened its 50th store this week the first acquisition in two years that will be owned by the company rather than a franchisee.

The new 800 sq ft store opened its doors on Friday in Bromley, Greater London. "The location is all about the surrounding chimney pots lots of them and of the right type, Bromley is an affluent suburb," said a Cook spokesman. "Like many of our shops, it's not a prime retail location, it's on a parade in a residential area about a mile from the high street, but it has free parking."

Cook said the opening was in line with its strategy of opening company-owned stores in South East England where the premium retailer knew the area well. Over the past couple of years, Cook had been opening stores farther afield in the South West and the North using a franchise model, passing on the responsibilty for store ownership to people more familiar with the areas, the spokesman added.

Selling franchises had also been a question of financial necessity as the recession put the brakes on its ability to open its own new stores. But now the economic situation was brighter, it was time to buy, he said.

"We're on much fairer footing financially we can now afford it," he added.

Cook now has 30 company-owned stores and 20 franchises. Like-for-like sales at company-owned stores were up 7% in the three months to June.