Marks & Spencer plans to extend its Simply Food store format into motorway service areas over the next 18 months.

The news follows rumours of its plans to sell off half the Simply Food portfolio, which the company has since denied.

Simply Food stores have already been launched in Toddington services as well as Reading and the Cherwell Valley. Another store will open at the Knutsford motorway service station in Cheshire next week.

The expansion is part of an extension of its franchise contract with Moto, part of Compass Group. The new Moto stores are in addition to the 500,000 sq ft of extra simply Food and food-only space that is being rolled out by 2006.

Stuart Rose, Marks & Spencer’s chief executive, said: “As part of our Simply Food rollout, we are delighted to be extending out contract with Moto so we can give our customers more choice in more locations.”