Premium café chain Patisserie Valerie is forging ahead with expansion plans, despite the economic downturn, opening four more outlets in the next fortnight and a further nine by the spring of next year.”We’re obviously aware of the economic situation, but, looking at the performance of our new stores, there is no justification for cutting back on our expansion plans,” said Paul May, MD of Patisserie Holdings, part of private equity group Risk Capi-tal Partners, which bought a majority stake in Patisserie Valerie in 2006.”In difficult times people want to cheer themselves up with an affordable treat.”The 16-shop chain has acquired a further nine sites, mainly in the capital, which are to be refurbished in the coming weeks. These stores are expected to be open by the spring of next year at the latest.May also revealed that the company’s franchise business in the Middle East was progressing well, with the first shop due to open in Dubai in December. Three other sites are expected to open soon after.Patisserie Holdings, which also owns 40-shop Midlands-based patisserie chain Druckers, plans to open a total of 125 Patisserie Valerie stores in the UK in the next three to five years. None of the UK outlets will be franchised.In other news, Druckers’ central bakery was closed down by environmental health officers earlier this month after heavy rain led to a leak in the roof. May said the company lost 17 hours of production while the roof was repaired, but the company was able to transfer capacity to its Patisserie Valerie production sites.