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Café franchise O'Briens is set to roll out a major expansion programme in the North East. Husband and wife team Lee and Gill Fish are planning to open nine new O'Briens locations in the region over the next 12 months.

The couple are already multiple franchise operators with O'Briens and have now been appointed development agents for the brand in the North East. Expansion plans will start with an opening in the Hillstreet Shopping Centre in Middlesbrough on Monday 11 May. Lee and Gill plan to double the number of O'Briens cafes in the area, building on the success of the eight already established by four different franchisees in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.

Lee says: 'We are delighted that O'Briens has shown such confidence in us with our appointment as North East development agents. We are particularly excited to be driving the brand in my home area, which is so well known to us both.

'While other businesses sadly have to retrench or shut up shop in this time of recession, we are happy to be bucking the national trend with our expansion plans. Along with the creation of new long-term shop-based jobs for the region, we will provide a further boost to the local economy by sourcing from local suppliers.

'Within five years, our plans are to build on the success of established franchisees and grow the business from the current eight to around 30. This will provide even more people with the opportunity to run their own business with all the backing offered by the O'Briens franchisor. We will kick off with up to five new businesses this year alone, helping to put people on the road to financial freedom by being their own boss. Reflecting the confidence of the market in the O'Briens brand, we are already in advanced negotiations for major new sites in Newcastle, Gateshead, Stockton and Darlington.'


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