Gondola Group has appointed Richard Hodgson as the new chief executive of its PizzaExpress business.
Hodgson's appointment ends a long hunt for someone to fill the role after Mark Angela left the business July 2011. He was succeeded by Steve Easterbrook, who held the position for less than a year before joining Wagamama as chief executive last summer. Last week it was announced Easterbrook was to return to fast food giant McDonald's.
Gondola's chief executive Harvey Smyth has been running the business since then.
Hodgson has a background in food retailing, having held senior positions at a number of the UK's leading supermarkets.
Most recently, he was group commercial director of Morrisons. Prior to this, he was commercial director at Waitrose, where his responsibilities included developing the Waitrose brand internationally. He also launched Waitrose's value range, Essential Waitrose, and the advertising campaign featuring Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal. Hodgson worked at Asda between 1996 and 2006.
He will take up his role at Gondola's largest brand, which was founded by Peter Boizot in 1965, on 29 April 2013 and will be responsible for overseeing the continued growth of PizzaExpress. The brand has 420 UK sites and operates in 12 countries including China and India. PizzaExpress said it had plans to open 200 new sites in these markets over the next five years, as well as 200 further sites in the UK. In addition, the brand now sells over 31 million pizzas in supermarkets across the UK.
Commenting on the appointment, Harvey Smyth, chief executive of the Gondola Group said:
"Richard brings exceptional experience in the food industry to PizzaExpress at a very exciting time in the business's development. During his highly successful career, Richard has developed a deep understanding of brand, quality and value, all of which are fundamental to PizzaExpress's future success."
Hodgson added: "I am delighted to be joining PizzaExpress. It is one of the UK's favourite brands with exciting prospects for the future and I am looking forward to working with the team to drive continued growth both in the UK and internationally."