Four Star Pizza, a franchised pizza delivery business owned by the Fitzwilliam hotelier Michael Holland, is planning to expand by 80 per cent its number of outlets in Ireland over the next two and a half years. It is also mulling a possible entry into the British market next year.

After a “root and branch” review of the business, the company says it plans to open 45 new franchised outlets in Ireland by the end of 2024, including 27 in the Republic and 18 in the north. It plans four new stores this year, 16 next year and 25 in 2024.

It says the new outlets would employ up to a further 900 people, at an average of 20 per store. Four Star Pizza currently has 42 franchised stores in its network in the Republic and 14 in the north.

The expansion plan represents a turnaround from its strategy before the pandemic when, under a different management team, Four Star Pizza suggested it might already be reaching saturation point in the Irish market, especially in major urban centres such as Dublin, Cork and Belfast.

But its new chief executive, Colin Hughes, who took the reins in January, believes significant further expansion in Ireland is still achievable, and he plans to break the 100 franchised outlets barrier before 2025. “We have taken a very data-driven approach to this,” he said.

Mr Hughes said the sites for expansion would be grouped in two tranches. The first group are greenfield sites to be targeted for expansion, such as Omagh, Strabane and Enniskillen and in the north and Sligo, Wexford and Athlone in the Republic, he said.

“There are some terrific towns there with good opportunities to bring the brand in,” said Mr Hughes.

The second group of potential further expansion sites are in urban areas where Four Star Pizza is already well established. Mr Hughes name-checked Dublin, Cork and Belfast, as well as “potentially” Limerick and Galway.

Four Star Pizza’s former director, Brian Clarke, reportedly said in February 2020, before the pandemic, that the company was then approaching a “capacity ceiling” in Ireland.

“There is only so much room for growth in this market with every franchise having its own dedicated delivery territory as part of its contract,” Mr Clarke was reported to have told the Irish Examiner newspaper.

However, Mr Hughes says the company is undertaking a data-driven study to ascertain areas where customers of existing Four Star Pizza outlets are unable to get their pizzas delivered within 30 minutes. Where that “critical” threshold cannot be met, there may be scope for further outlets, he says.

“Getting to saturation point is not all about the number of outlets,” said Mr Hughes.

He said the group is already well advanced on its plans to build the supply chain necessary for the expansion plan. He also said the business will rely heavily on technology and its apps, as an “ecommerce business that sells pizza”.

Mr Holland, the owner of the five-star Fitzwilliam hotel in Dublin who bought Four Star Pizza out of examinership in 2011, also owns the master franchise for the British market. Mr Hughes said it would not expand into Britain this year but it may look to do so in 2023.

The Irish pizza delivery market has boomed in recent years with significant expansion drives undertaken by rival groups Apache Pizza and Domino’s, which said last year it will expand “considerably” in this market.