At the same time, Jason Thomas, former operations director at Loch Fyne Restaurants and current operations director at Whitbread Hotels & Restaurant, will become managing director of ASK Italian reporting into Holmes.
Holmes, who has been with Gondola since the end of 2001 and will report into chief executive Harvey Smyth, was promoted from operations director for the c110-strong chain, a position he has held for nearly three years, in September 2012. Previous to that he spent eight years as London regional director of PizzaExpress.
His new appointment follows on from Gondola’s decision to sell Zizzi and ASK together, separately from core brand PizzaExpress.
Goldman Sachs is to handle a sale of its biggest brand, although an initial public offering has not been ruled out, while Rothschild is handling the sale of ASK and Zizzi, which in total operate c.245 restaurants.
Holmes has been credited with being the driving force in the revival of the ASK brand over the last couple of years, with over half of the chain’s c110 sites now reflecting the brand’s “fresh new look”.
The transformed sites are delivering “excellent returns” and the group is applying learnings from these restaurants to its new openings. The brand has also recently launched a trial of an all-day offer at its flagship Islington site.
Under Holmes, ASK has seen a subtle shift in its roll out plans targeting major cities for openings over the last 18 months, with a debut in Birmingham under its belt and Manchester set to follow. Further future openings in Chelmsford and Swindon have also been secured.
Earlier this year, Gondola said that the evolution of the Zizzi brand was almost complete, “resulting in a stunning portfolio of over 130 restaurants and an offer that is well defined”.
The brand has been led by Smyth and operations director Rebecca Payton since former managing director Helen Jones left in the middle of 2012 to join Caffe Nero. Jones had played a major part in the evolution of the brand.
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