Sandwich chain Baguette Express plans to rival Subway and Greggs on UK high streets by building an empire of more than 300 franchised stores over the next five years via a network of regional master franchisees.

The East Lothian-based company, which currently has 55 outlets in Scotland and England, has appointed its first master franchisee in the north east and is close to signing similar deals in Manchester and Greater London, which would allow the business to rapidly roll out new stores in each region.

Within the next three years, the company hopes to create a network of 11 master franchisees, covering all regions of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland, enabling it to grow the chain to over 300 stores by 2013. Scotland, where the majority of its shops are based currently, will be run by the head office in Haddington.

The master franchise for the north east has been taken by Azeem Arshad, a local businessman, who will take charge of recruitment and business development in the area. He will also open and operate a Baguette Express outlet in a prime site in Gateshead’s Metro Centre. By the end of 2009, Baguette Express plans to have a total of 70 stores in the UK, employing 750 people and with turnover of £15m.

The stores, which sell baguettes, rolls, paninis, wraps, sandwiches, salads and baked potatoes, are supplied by two large foodservice distributors and are targeted at young professionals, students and office workers.

"We are all about fresh, healthy food that is really good value for money. This puts us in a good position against the likes of Greggs and Subway," said business development manager Jim Stewart. "Customers particularly like the fact that they can be creative with their sandwich fil-lings and there is a fixed price."

Baguette Express was launched as a single outlet in 1999, before being taken over by entrepreneurial brothers Robin and Billy Stenhouse in 2004, who moved it to a franchise model.