Family dining operator Cobb & Co is gearing up for a major expansion with plans to establish as many as 30 new restaurants nationwide over the next few years.

The chain, known for its shrimp cocktails and kids' traffic light drinks, peaked at 37 sites during its 1980s heyday, according to chief operations officer Nathan Bonney.

But just seven locations are trading today in regional centres such as Tauranga, Rotorua, Invercargill, New Plymouth and Levin.

An eighth store will open in Dunedin early next year.


Bonney said further expansion would focus on regional areas - including Queenstown and Kapiti Coast - and cities such as Christchurch.

"Thirty [new stores] is a possibility if you look at the size of New Zealand," he said.

Bonney said Auckland isn't currently on the cards "but we'd consider it".

Cobb & Co had a nostalgic appeal to New Zealanders, he said, particularly those in their 30s or 40s.

"Our food is not pretentious - it's food that people are comfortable and familiar with and we want to put it out to people at a price that is reasonable," Bonney said.

"[Cobb & Co] is absolutely as relevant today as it's ever been."

He said the chain's menu had been "refined" over the years but classics such as sirloin steak with prawn and parmesan sauce and traffic lights remained as popular as ever.

The first Cobb & Co store opened in 1973.


Today, the business is owned by Sue and Ben Gower, who originally opened the Tauranga store as franchisees before purchasing the master franchise in 2012.

The chain's name harks back to a 19th century Australian stagecoach company.