Niall Howard, formerly of Hakkasan has left his role as chief executive of artisan pizza franchise Project Pie, MCA understands.

Howard entered into a master franchise agreement with Sue and John Canavan under The Canavan Co UK Ltd in 2014, with plans to add 60 locations in the UK and Ireland over five years.

Sue Canavan told MCA: “At the beginning Niall was extremely helpful to us with his experience with Hakkasan.

“He’s now decided to leave the partnership, but we’re really excited about the future for Project Pie.”

Earlier this week the UK franchise for Pizza Pie, which is known for its custom built pizzas, announced plans to open its third site - in Southampton’s £85m WestQuay Watermark development.

Canavan confirmed the group was looking at potential sites in Norwich, Nottingham and Bristol.

She welcomed competition from the likes of MOD Pizza, the fast causal build your own pizza concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, which has plans to have four UK by the end of the year, adding: “It enables our concept to be understood better. I’m never worried about competition.”