A Darlington company marketing an innovative vending machine has signed a contract to supply 1,000 sandwiches a week to North-East workers.

Hotbite, which installs machines that cook and serve fresh, hot toasted sandwiches, has signed a deal with Hartlepool-based Paul Noble Executive Catering Services to supply sandwiches and fillings for the machines.

The North-East franchise for Hotbite is held by a Darlington firm of franchise consultants called the Franchise Company.

Managing director Stewart Booth agreed to give the contract to Paul Noble after a trial run with the firm.

Hotbite has already installed machines in Garlands call centres in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, the Southlands and Neptune leisure centres in Middlesbrough, and the Oak Leaf Sports Complex in Newton Aycliffe.

It is in negotiations for a number of other sites across the region.

The Hotbite business concept revolves around the vending machines, which use a contact grill for cooking rather than a microwave.

Each machine can store up to 140 fresh sandwiches inside a chilled compartment.

Once a selection has been made the machine transfers the sandwich from the compartment and inserts it into the grill, dispensing it hot 90 seconds later.

Mr Booth said: "I am delighted that we have been able to reach an agreement with a local supplier to provide the sandwiches for Hotbite machines across the North-East.

"It is vital for us that all the sandwiches are as fresh and tasty as possible, and this deal will help ensure that."