• Stores to close on March 4
  • Expensive rents made sites unprofitable, sources say
  • Tesco trying to find alternative roles for those affected

Tesco will retreat from the sandwich market and close its two food-to-go stores, which opened to great fanfare less than 18 months ago.

Tesco had made a play for the £4.4bn food-to-go market by opening two stores in central London in 2014 and 2015, selling sandwiches and soups.

But sources told The Telegraph that the expensive rents in the two locations – Philpot Lane in the City and Villiers Lane near Charing Cross – had meant the venture was unprofitable.

A look inside Tesco's new-look food to go store in Villiers Street, London.

Tesco follows Sainsbury’s in closing down its attempt to tap into the lucrative market. The latter closed its food-to-go store Fresh Kitchen in 2012 after failing to attract the lunchtime crowd. When it opened in 2011 Sainsbury’s had said it could have up to 1,000 across the UK.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We’re always looking for opportunities to improve our convenience offering in London, which is why we trialled two food-to-go concept stores.

“As part of the trial, our customers told us they prefer the wider range of products offered in our Express and Metro stores.

“Closing these stores was a difficult decision and we will, of course, do everything we can to find alternative roles within Tesco for colleagues affected by this decision.”

The closures affect 22 employees.