Paula Mackenzie has stepped down as managing director of KFC, MCA understands.

She is believed to have left the brand to pursue a new opportunity outside the organisation.

Mackenzie was with KFC UK & Ireland for nine years, five of those as manager director.

She also served as chief financial officer, as well as other business, marketing and development roles.

In November, she spoke at MCA’s Restaurant Conference about how delivery had dramatically reshaped the business, enabling it to grow its national reach.

Last months, KFC has revealed plans to open a further 50 new restaurants this year and another 300 over the next five years.

The UK & Ireland business opened 160 new restaurants nationwide over the last five years and is celebrating its 1,000th restaurant during the first quarter of the year.

Mackenzie told MCA how “huge demand” for dine-in restaurants from existing and new customers had been a key factor in KFC’s ambitious new opening target.

She said the business had achieved “a big turnaround” over the past five years, into “a thriving, vibrant and connected brand”.

“Our franchisees have been on this journey with us and have a renewed sense of purpose and ambition, which our new restaurant formats, from small box to roadside, enables them to realise,” she said.

“This combination of commitment, capital and capability, combined with brand strength, has been the real driving force for growth.”