Paul UK, the London-based French bakery concept, reported strong growth in the second half of last year and said that this improvement has continued into the first quarter of 2014.

The 30-strong group, which is led by Jean Michel-Orieux, saw like-for-like growth of 1.45% and 4.4% in the final two quarters of 2013 respectively, while total sales for the year stood at £23.8m.

The company is planning to double in size by 2018 and targeting four openings this year, including its first site outside of London.

During the second half of 2013, the company agreed a business plan for the expansion of Paul within London and throughout the UK. Offering three distinct concepts to suit particular locations, the plan identifies new locations for Paul ranging from a Paul kiosk, a Paul retail with seating or through to a  Paul Bistro offering customers a table service menu throughout the day.

It is thought that the group is currently revamping one of its central London sites to the Paul Bistro format.

Michel-Orieux told M&C Report: “During last year the focus was very much on bringing together the new management team with experience and proven ability to refocus the Company on its core strengths and its points of difference which can re-establish Paul as the premier artisan bakery in London before launching its national expansion.  As a result of this concentration on getting ‘back to basics’, Paul has seen a significant improvement on the performance of 2012.

“The implementation of the changes, which the management team recognised, needed to be made started to have a major impact on the business during the third and fourth quarters of 2013

“This improvement has continued into the first quarter of 2014 and with further initiatives identified to develop skills within the business both in product development and customer service, the company is confident this improvement will be sustained.

“As the quality of the company’s customer service, as well as the consistency of product throughout the range has increased the conversion rates have improved, this has also resulted in an increase in the average ticket price.  These improvements in efficiency as well as the focus on driving efficiency and maintaining the controls put in place across the business during 2013 have resulted in significant improvement in the EBITDA of 115% on a like-for-like.

“The refocus on Paul’s core standards continues to ensure every customer enjoys the quality artisan bakery experience, which Paul will now look to bring to a wider customer audience both inside London and outside.”