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Top 100: Jinlong Wang, PizzaExpress

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Jinlong Wang, PizzaExpress

Overall ranking: 47 (new entry)

Restaurateur ranking: 13 (new entry)

Snapshot

Jinlong Wang is chairman and chief executive of PizzaExpress, the casual-dining giant that operates nearly 500 UK sites and 100 more in international markets. Wang is an executive of Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, which acquired PizzaExpress in July 2014. He graduated from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing in 1982, and secured a law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1988. He started his career as a government official in the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade in China. PizzaExpress's £873m sale was overseen by then chief executive Richard Hodgson.

What we think

Despite his considerable achievements for Starbucks in China, Wang was not a well-known name on the UK hospitality scene before Hony's takeover of PizzaExpress. He now wields considerable power in the driving seat of one of the country's most famous casual-dining companies, and has ambitions to make it a global brand.

Wang was made chairman of PizzaExpress following the acquisition and added the chief executive role last year. Hodgson stepped down for "personal reasons" in May 2017, after PizzaExpress announced its second annual drop in UK sales; he has since been appointed as chief executive of Yo! Sushi.

Before PizzaExpress, Wang, now London-based, held a series of prominent roles at Starbucks, having earlier worked as legal counsel to the Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. He led the team that launched Starbucks in China, gradually expanding the brand to 2,500 sites in the country. He was chairman of Starbucks China from May 2013 to January 2015, and president of Asia-Pacific of the Starbucks Corporation.

Like many other UK casual-dining businesses, PizzaExpress has come up against headwinds in recent times as it grapples with a revaluation of business rates, rising commercial rents, increases in the National Living Wage and fierce competition. Its full-year results for 2016 were flat, with underlying earnings up 1.1% year-on-year to £102.6m on a turnover of £509.7m (up 9.8% on the year before). Like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland, however, were down by 0.9% year-on-year. That contrasted with strong growth in the company's international operations, following 21 openings including a new site in Singapore, with analysts suggesting at the time of Hodgson's resignation last year that Wang's experience of developing Starbucks in China and Asia was one of the reasons he was chosen to take over as chief executive.

All eyes will now be on PizzaExpress's full-year results for 2017 to see how well it has weathered the casual-dining storm in the UK, as well as how it has fared internationally.

Further information

PizzaExpress returns to growth after two years of falling sales >>

PizzaExpress boss Richard Hodgson resigns >>

Starbucks plans global growth >>

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