Carluccio’s has the potential to double its UK estate according to chief executive Simon Kossoff who will move into the role of executive chairman from February as the operational management is reinforced to reflect the changing nature and scale of the company.

Kossoff told M&C Report the company will reach 100 stores in the next 18 months and he believes there is scope to double that number thanks to the multiple trading formats it now operates in.

“Carluccio’s as a company is very different now to how it was even two years ago,” Kossoff said, adding that the changes in management and operations have been made to reflect these changes.

Neil Wickers, who will become CEO in February, has previously worked on brand development at Unilever and as marketing director at PizzaExpress, managing director of development group for Gondola and most recently as managing director of international operations for PizzaExpress. Kossoff said Wickers’ experience in brand and food development makes him key for the role.

His first role will be “to get stuck in to the UK branding” as it remains at the core of the company while Kossoff’s role will evolve to include both the UK and international growth strategy as well as being responsible for property domestically and overseas.

Carluccio’s is opening its first US site in a suburb of Washington DC in the late spring or early summer and a second in another Washington suburb in late summer, which if successful Kossoff said will create a strong opportunity for the company.

It also intends to open “a couple more” in the Republic of Ireland this year after buying out the franchise in Ireland as the franchisee was unable to take the expansion plans forward.

The group also has franchised sites in the Middle East in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar as well as Turkey where it has five sites in Istanbul which are entering a period of consolidation after opening four in the city last year.

Kossoff said that until the brand is established in the US the company will not focus on any countries outside its current remit.

Domestically the group saw a mixed Christmas trading with Kossoff calling the earlier period “not awesome” but described mid-December to New Year’s Day as “unbelievable”.

The company ran a series of Christmas pop-ups in the six weeks leading up to Christmas which took £1m and will become a regular feature in Carluccio’s festive events in future years.