Easterbrook quits PizzaExpress for Wagamama
2 August, 2012
Steve Easterbrook, the man credited with turning around McDonald's in the UK, is to be the new chief executive at Wagamama. The shock move sees him leave the top job at PizzaExpress less than a year after joining.
Easterbrook's move from McDonald's was seen as a coup for PizzaExpress' owners Gondola - as it planned both domestic and international expansion. His departure will be seen as an equally big blow.
In June, Helen Jones, managing director of sister brand Zizzi, announced that she was leaving Gondola to take up an international role at Caffe Nero. Group chief executive Harvey Smyth is taking on her responsibilities and is now likely to take over the PizzaExpress reins too.
Wagamama was sold last year to Duke Street, the private equity group, in a £215m deal. The chief executive’s role has been vacant since the departure in June of Steve Hill, who oversaw the sale of the business from Lion Capital. Easterbrook said: “Wagamama is a great business with huge potential both here in the UK and further afield.”
"There had been talk that Wagamama's new chairman David Williams was looking to replace Hill with a fast food industry executive, but I don't think anyone thought that would be Steve Easterbrook," said Peach Factory's Peter Martin.
Former Wagamama chairman Ian Neill said: "This is a great appointment. Steve Easterbrook is one of the people I admire a lot in the sector."
Wagamama has 84 restaurants in Britain and 35 overseas franchises. Easterbrook, who spoke at the Peach 2020 conference two years ago while still at McDonalds, will take charge of an expansion drive in Britain and abroad. The group intends to open 15 restaurants in Britain this year and is believed to be trading positively.
At McDonald's Easterbrook was chief brand officer with responsibility across the global group.
At PizzaExpress he had started to wean the chain off deep two-for-one offers and oversaw a continuing refurbishment programme. The chain has opened 18 restaurants over the past year. Its global expansion plans follow Gondola’s decision last year to repurchase the PizzaExpress International business that it sold in 2006.
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