PizzaExpress chief executive Richard Hodgson has resigned for personal reasons after four years in the job and will be replaced by Jinlong Wang.
Hodgson’s departure came just weeks after the business announced a second annual drop in UK sales.
Wang, the current chairman of PizzaExpress and the acting CEO of PizzaExpress China, is a former senior Starbucks executive and has been chairman of PizzaExpress for the past two years.
Wang said: “On behalf of the Board, I would like to extend our thanks to Richard for his leadership and his contribution to our success over the last four years. We wish him the best of luck with his future endeavours.
“This is a hugely exciting time for PizzaExpress. We have a cherished brand, fantastic people, and a special heritage, but it is the enormous opportunity I see before us which excites me the most. Our 14,000 people and our customers will be my focus and together we at PizzaExpress will create an exciting and delightful customer experience that is second to none, and serves the communities in which we live and operate. Excellence in everything we do is what we aspire to.
“We have a strategy across all our 14 territories to transform PizzaExpress into a global brand. We will drive growth across all our markets through brand development, innovation and improving our customer relevance in each key market in which we operate. The UK remains central to our strategy, and continued success and investment there is the foundation for developing the brand internationally.
“I am greatly looking forward to the future as we embark on what is a truly ambitious programme for global expansion, underpinned by our people and our customers around the world.”
Earlier this month, the company announced a 9.8% increase in turnover to £509.7m for the year to 3 January 2016, driven by international growth, although like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland dropped 0.9% amid a “softening” casual dining market.
PizzaExpress said like-for-like sales were back into growth in the UK and Ireland during the first quarter, although it said the market remained “challenging” and actions were in place to “help mitigate UK sector-wide cost pressures”.
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