Heavenly Desserts is looking to accelerate its UK store opening rate to 20 sites next year, up from 15 sites annually, managing director Yousif Aslam has told MCA.

The business recently opened its first central London site, on Baker Street, with its second store in Glasgow and first in Canterbury due to open in mid-November. This will be followed by Brighton either just before Christmas or in early January.

“That will take us close to 50 trading stores in the UK, which is quite a celebratory achievement for us,” he said.

Of the 20 sites targeted in 2023, he said half were already in the pipeline, and it was working to secure franchise partners for the remaining territories. It has also built up its head office, with four new appointments, across operations and compliance, over the past three months, to strengthen the team infrastructure ahead of its planned growth for next year.

The dessert parlour is looking to expand within cities where it has an existing presence – for example in Birmingham, where it has two sites and plans to open three more over the next three years – but it is also looking to open smaller formats in less populated towns and cities, using what it calls its ‘neighbourhood model’.

This growth comes in addition to the expansion of its international growth efforts, with its first international store due to open in Canada at the end of November.

Site finding is also underway in Karachi, for its first café in Pakistan, and Aslam said the business is close to signing a franchise deal in the US, in Texas.

Last month MCA reported that the high-end dessert parlour had partnered with Seeds Consulting in order to help push its franchise model out across the EMEA.

“One of the areas that wasn’t high on our priority list last year was Europe. We know that Europe is also a key market for us, but it wasn’t one that we wanted to target at the very beginning,” Aslam explained.

“Having done our market research alongside Seeds, there isn’t an offering like Heavenly Desserts in Continental Europe.”

He said the “wheels were in motion” on recruiting potential partners in Europe, with its key initial territories being France, Spain and Germany. “We think these are the areas that we will benefit from opening in first before we scale it into other European cities.”

Aslam said that rather than its attentions being refocused on international expansion, “the foot is very much on the pedal for the UK, to ensure that while international is growing, our UK estate is also continuing to grow as a healthy pace”.

He added that as part of its recent new menu launch it had introduced a dessert tapas option, to cater for customers who want to try and a little bit of everything, which he said he believed was a first for a dessert café and had been very popular with customers.