Carluccio’s has announced it’s seeking strategic franchise partners to support expansion in the travel market and within the Republic of Ireland.

The business, which currently operates two sites in Dublin, is hoping to expand to up to ten locations across the ROI in cities including Cork and Limerick, as well as additional sites in the capital.

Upcoming market complexities caused by Brexit were cited as a primary reason for the brand’s Irish expansion drive. “We’ve been debating whether and how to expand the Dublin business for some time. And now with Brexit becoming more likely, it puts a degree of difficulty into that market that doesn’t exist today,” Mark Jones, Carluccio’s CEO, told MCA.

“Many of the other branded operators out there operate via franchisee’s, so after a lot of thought on the complexities that Brexit might bring, we think it’s best to find the partners and experts in that market,” he said.

The chain currently operates in London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 as well as King’s Cross St Pancras, Waterloo, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham Grand Central stations, but Jones said they need a partner in order to expand further in the travel market.

He explained that over the past few years airports have started requesting operators to bid on multiple sites, making Carluccio’s, as a single restaurant brand, unable to competitively bid on airport sites such as Manchester and Dublin.

“We’re being realistic about that market. We can’t bid and therefore we need a partner. A partner that has a coffee shop brand, a partner that has a fast-casual, a sandwich operation or a bar operation. There’s a degree of realism here in that we need to partner with experts, and that’s what we’re seeking to do,” he said.

The business is focussing on expansion in Heathrow and regional airports across the UK and Ireland, but Jones said they would also look internationally. “We did operate in two international airport sites – Dubai and Turkey – and Turkey was one of the busiest sites we had in our whole portfolio before the airport closed.

“We’ve got knowledge of operating internationally through our international franchise business so we’re not just limiting ourselves to talking to people in the UK,” he said.

The partner sites will have the updated interiors and evolved menu of its new ‘Fresca’ format as seen in Heathrow, Richmond, Canary wharf and Bluewater Shopping Centre.

Carluccio’s expects to choose its franchise partners in early 2020.