HR director Nick Taylor's elevation to the Pizza Express board has allowed him to influence company strategy and implement the necessary training schemes to enable the company to expand worldwide. DeeDee Doke reports
For most HR directors, a seat on the company board represents the pinnacle of their ambitions - a 'final destination' of sorts, and the successful culmination of a career. But for Pizza Express HR director, Nick Taylor, being selected to a board seat was just the beginning of a journey to help his ambitious, UK-headquartered restaurant and retail food company realise its own future. And as a straight-talking pragmatist, Taylor would probably be the first to admit that since his ascent to the board in February 2001, the new position has proved more of a hot seat than an easy chair.
"On Monday morning, I was a very happy HR non-board director, doing my job. The next day, I was a main board director. Great," Taylor recalls. "Get a bit of grooming and development, perhaps? No. While I had much experience of the front line, I had the problems of not being groomed for a main board role. So it would have been good if I'd been told the year before, 'You're board material. It's time to develop you'. That would have made life a lot easier." (See box on p24)
So, not only is Taylor still learning the ropes of being a director, but he has also taken on a major, high-profile project that could make the difference between future success and failure for his company, and himself, as the first HR director at Pizza Express to achieve a board position.
Founded in 1965, Pizza Express now has about 300 restaurants in the UK and Ireland, as well as other branches - mostly franchise-owned eateries - elsewhere around the world, including Cyprus, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Japan, Poland, Spain and Saudi Arabia. It also owns the Café Pasta restaurant chain, and has begun a retail operation in which Pizza Express food products are sold in several supermarket chains in the UK and Hong Kong.
Aggressive expansion plans anticipate hundreds of additional Pizza Express restaurants in the UK and Ireland. Internationally, short-term plans call for the opening and operating of more company-owned restaurants in France and Spain, with continued expansion elsewhere through franchise agreements. Over the long-term, the international outlook suggests future investment of company equity