Jean-Michel Orieux has stepped down as managing director of Ping Pong, the dim sum chain, as it looks to focus on international expansion for its future growth, M&C Report has learnt. It is understood that Orieux has been replaced at the company, which is owned by Igor Sagiryan, by Paul Sarlas, who has overseen restaurant operations in the Middle East and Russia. Orieux, the former head of Paul UK and operations director at Conran Restaurants, replaced Avishek Dutt at the group back at the start of 2007 and oversaw the growth of the business into an 11-strong chain in the UK, while also launching the brand in the US, Brazil and Dubai. It is thought that he is set to take a sabbatical, but plans to return to the restaurant sector in a new role in the new year. His departure follows that of James Horler, the former chief executive of La Tasca, who stepped down as non-executive chairman of Ping Pong last month after carrying out a six-month strategic review of the business. Over the past six months, the group has placed four of its sites on the market – with two sold and another under offer – reduced its debt levels and central cost structure, and is on track to report a 40% increase in EBITDA in its current financial year. It is thought that the group will put any UK expansion plans on hold indefinitely to concentrate on an international franchise rollout. It recently signed a franchise agreement with Mirah Hospitality to open the first Ping Pong outlet in India in December at the Bandra-Kurla complex in Mumbai. It is thought that up to 15 restaurants could be opened under the agreement. Ping Pong currently operates one site in Dubai, two in Brazil and two in the US in Washington DC. The sites in Brazil and Dubai are run through joint ventures, while its US operations are company-owned. Earlier this year, Ping Pong appointed CBRE to market its three sites in Appold Street, Goodge Street and Spitalfields, plus its takeaway sub-brand concept Now at Liverpool Street. Truffle Hunting, the restaurant Management & Consultancy firm, is understood to be set to open its eponymous first restaurant after securing the Goodge Street site, while Byron has taken the Spitalfields site. The Appold Street site is believed to be under offer.