San Carlo Group, the family run Italian restaurant chain, has been in discussions about securing outside investment, managing director Marcello Distefano has revealed.

It comes as the 15-strong group looks to secure another site in Manchester this year, and “possibly” another franchise site overseas by the end of 2014.

During a debate at the Northern Restaurant & Bar show in Manchester, Distefano was asked whether the company has sought different finance options.

“It’s something we’ve started to consider over the past year or so. We’ve spoken to several companies, and it will happen,” he said.

“We are a family business but we’re realising that if you want to grow to the number of units we want to achieve… you do need the outside investment.”

San Carlo has been working with Americana Group, which franchises TGI Friday’s and other brands in the Middle East, to take its concepts into the region.

He described the success as mixed, with current difficulties in the region having had an impact. For example, its site in Beirut closed after tourism was hit heavily due to the conflict in nearby Syria.

He also highlighted the difficulty of being so far away from the business. San Carlo would typically visit its franchise sites overseas four our five times a year.

“Franchising can be a good thing, but we’ve found that the smaller the product, the easier it is,” Distefano said.

“Yes, we are going to carry it on, but we’re going to create more of a structure and team to look after it, and we’re going to take more management of it.”

He said San Carlo this year plans to restructure “and build up our business for the next level”. For example, improving its technology systems with devices such as epos and stock controls.

“That’s a big change for us. It is one of those things that you have to stop and do because if you don’t you will fall apart.”

M&C has previously reported that San Carlo Group has secured the PJ’s Bar & Grill site in London’s Covent Garden for an opening this year.