Darren Williams, former head of retail at Hotel Chocolat, has stepped down as commercial director of Paul UK, the London-based French bakery concept, M&C Report understands.

Williams, who spent five years at Hotel Chocolat and in that time helped to the grow business from 29 to 77 sites.

His departure from the 31-strong Paul UK comes as it gears up to open two further sites in London, at the Three Quays development near the Tower of London and at Marble Arch.

It also follows the appointment of Gary Cowles, formerly of Stonegate Pub Company and Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), as the group’s new operations director.

The group is looking to open five sites in total this year and recently launched its second site outside of the capital in Newbury.

The company, which is led by Jean Michel-Orieux, underwent a strategic review last year and built a development program actively looking at sites in London and the South East.