Hotcha is to ramp up its expansion in the second half of this year with the aim of adding two stores a month going forward, MCA has learnt.

The currently 13-strong business, which has long stated its aim to be the UK’s first national Chinese takeaway chain, is in legals on two sites in London – Fulham and Brent Cross – and will open in Bournemouth and Cardiff in March.

James Liang, who founded the business in 2011 with Andy Chan, told MCA that March would also see its new £4.5m headquarters and central production facility in Bristol come on line. He said this would allow growth to 100 stores.

Currently only Hotcha’s Liverpool store is franchised with one more planned franchise launch – in Lincoln – lined up for this year. Liang the group was keen to eventually have a significant proportion of the portfolio franchised but said the company would build relationships steadily and ensure its partners were prepared for scale.

Liang told MCA that the rise of delivery giants such as Deliveroo had proved challenging but said the bad publicity surrounding the gig economy had meant drivers were returning.

Hotcha – which prepares all core ingredients at its central production facility to be used in line with house recipes and presentation style – opened its 13th store in Newbury this week.

Liang said: “Newbury has opened well – we did our homework on the location and we know it’s going to be a good one for us. We’re seeing strong returns from openings and over 45% like-for-like on existing stores, so we’re in a good place.

“Everything has really been gearing up to opening the new facility in March, which will really give us the power under the bonnet.”

On growth he said: “We want to go where our customers are so that’s student towns and demographics with young professionals and young families. Towns like Portsmouth, Southampton.

“London is a target too, although it’s very competitive and you have to pay price. We have got two in London in the pipeline at the moment – one in Fulham and Brent Cross. We are paying twice as much and a premium on top but looking at the area we know it’s going to be a great store and returns will be quicker.”

Liang said the group had strengthened its operational structure to cope with the accelerated growth – introducing area managers and operations managers.

He said the company - which secured £7.5m of new investment earlier this year – had the funds to support this year’s growth but did not rule out a further investment push.

On the threat from the disruptors, Liang said: “When Deliveroo first came into Bristol we lost quite a few of our drivers to them but few months later they all came back. The bad publicity they’ve had through the disputes with riders has taken the shine off. We pay our drivers fairly and that goes a long way.”

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