James Fleming has stepped down as chief executive of Paul UK with Esther O’Halloran managing director taking on the day-to-day running of the 30-strong chain.

Fleming, who joined the business in April 2010 from Pizza Express where he was an operations director, is understood to be now carrying out project work for the group’s international chief executive Maxime Holder.

O’Halloran, who had been interim managing director, has been with Paul UK since 2006 as its HR director. She has previously worked at Whitbread and Pret A Manger.

The change in management comes as the company looks to open three further sites in the capital by the end of the summer before concentrating on expanding nationally next year.

The group, which operates c500 sites across 27 countries, also operates nine franchise sites in transport hubs in the UK.

Paul brand launched in the UK at Covent Garden in 2000.