100: Harvey Smyth

01 July 2010 100: Harvey Smyth

Overall ranking: 12

Restaurateur ranking: 4

Harvey Smyth - Snapshot

Harvey Smyth is chief executive of Gondola Holdings, which has more than 600 restaurants, including the ubiquitous Pizza Express, Askand Zizzibrands, and is second only in terms of outlets to pub-restaurant operator Mitchells & Butlers in the UK. Its newest brand, Byron, an upmarket burger offer, will hit 11 sites by the end of 2010. The group employs approximately 13,500 people, serving more than 38 million meals a year. In the year to 30 June 2009 sales improved by 10%, with turnover up to £509m. Operating profit was £45.7m, but the group made a pre-tax loss of £52.4m as a result of interest payments on loans.

Harvey Smyth - Career history

Smyth graduated from Bristol University with a BSc in biochemistry. He joined accountants Arthur Andersen, where he qualified as a chartered accountant.

In 1996 Smyth became finance director at sandwich retailer Pret A Manger and rose to become deputy chief executive and UK managing director in 2000. Here he oversaw its growth from 35 outlets in London to more than 150 worldwide, with a turnover of £150m.

He assumed his current role at the Gondola Group in 2003 after the £278m acquisition of PizzaExpress by private equity firms TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures International (CVI).

Gondola was set up to float the restaurant brands owned by private equity firms TDR and CVI, which also owns the Nando's chain of chicken restaurants. TDR and CVI retained a majority stake following the flotation.

Paternoster Acquisitions, a bid vehicle formed by private equity firm Cinven, took the company private again in 2006.

Harvey Smyth - What we think

Despite the fact that he runs Gondola, one of the largest restaurant groups in the UK, Smyth has tended to stay away from the limelight. In fact, since the group's takeover by Cinven, Smyth has virtually taken a monk's vow of silence.

Concentrating on the business does seem to be paying off. The PizzaExpress machine shows no signs of running out of steam, perhaps due to its canny ability to tempt cash-strapped consumers via discounts. Smyth has also made concerted efforts to attract a more upmarket crowd to Pizza Express restaurants, signing deals with chefs Theo Randall and Francesco Mazzei.

Gondola is targeting 15-25 Pizza Express openings a year despite the tough economic situation and is currently hunting for a chief operating officer to support Smyth and managing director Mark Angela in achieving this goal.

Harvey Smyth - Further information

Gondola Group >>

Gondola Holdings set to return to private hands under Cinven >>

Ex-Greene King director to head up Pizza Express >>">" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people here >>

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