Vapiano, the Italian casual dining concept, plans to more than double in size to 300 sites globally over the next five years as it targets openings in larger UK cities under franchise, UK and US managing director Phil Sermon has told M&C Report.

Regarding the UK plans, Sermon said the concept “will work across the country”, with experience from other countries having shown that it works best in cities with populations of 300,000 or more. “There are lots of cities in the UK that would merit having a Vapiano or two, or even more,” he stated.

This week Vapiano, which is to open its third London site in Soho in June, announced that it’s looking for franchisees to aid its UK expansion outside the capital.

Sermon told M&C Report that franchisees would be aligned to specific regions and the location of new franchise stories would be dictated by the quality of the individual or group.

“I think it will be one franchisee for an area. It’s worked very successfully in Sweden and Switzerland and elsewhere, where there’s a really professional successful entrepreneur who has taken a franchise and grown their premises in specific areas.”

Sermon said it is not known what proportion of new openings would be franchise and corporate. “We are looking to expand both,” he said.

He said there is no UK-specific openings target.

“We are looking within the next five years to have 300 stores around the world. We’ve got 140 at the moment. Because we operate in 28 countries, it depends where the right opportunity is in the global market.”

Sermon said like-for-like sales at its current UK sites are “very encouraging”.  “We’re very pleased with the performance in the UK. That’s one of the reasons why we are looking to expand in England.”

Sermon also overseas the business in the US, where it operates 11 stores, a mixture of corporate and franchise.

He called the US venture “a great challenge”. “We are looking to mirror the success of the UK in the US.”