Name: Chris Holmes
Job title: International and channel director
Company: Pizza Express
What was your first job? I was a silver service waiter at a fancy golf club in Kent (until I spilt peas and butter on a bride).
What’s been your worst job interview? Well my worst-ever ‘interview’ was my Cambridge entrance interview, where we spent too long in a joke shop and I was 20 minutes late, locked in a kitchen and asked to fill in an exam without a pen. I was delighted to go to Warwick University!
What was the first music single you bought? The Bluebells – Young at Heart.
How do you describe your job to your friends? A good question – perhaps that I look after a range of channels including our major retail business.
That’s often easier than saying retail, delivery, our owned restaurants in Hong Kong, the UAE and our fast-growing global franchise business, as well as our UK franchise partnership with Welcome Break.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? I love helping our teams to make big things happen, like our new frozen range landing in Tesco, our own delivery service (Pizza Express Delivers) launching or seeing a new global market open up.
It’s been a big year for our grocery business – as well as the frozen launch, our transformed chilled range landed with 18 months in the making. All of these are massive team efforts, inside and outside of Pizza Express.
“I would love to see a touch more warmth and ‘hospitality’ in the UK grocery scene”
What is the least rewarding part? It’s probably the time away from my family with long-haul travel. That and the two-hour commute from home to Soho! Although 20 minutes of that is a walk from Waterloo to Soho Square to get my steps in. Vital when you’re lucky enough to try as much pizza and pasta as I do.
What is your motto in life? No regrets. Say yes to things more than you say no.
If you were allowed one dream perk, what would it be? Every Pizza Express employee gets 50% off the bill so that’s a pretty good start. Otherwise free childcare – we have two-year-old twins and a seven-year-old. It’s busy chez Holmes…
Do you have any phobias? Heights! Although I’ll try most things once.
If you could change one thing in grocery, what would it be? I would love to see a touch more warmth and ‘hospitality’ in the UK grocery scene. I’ve just arrived back from visiting our restaurant teams in Hong Kong and I visited a Taste supermarket… I could have browsed all day, it was so warm and packed with great-value foodie inspiration.
What luxury would you have on a desert island? I think I’d have to bring the family – they could all use a bit of sunshine!
Failing that, my 1962 Dansette vinyl record player and a Stevie Wonder album. One of the things I love about working at Pizza Express is the music heritage – I’ve recently been growing my vinyl collection from the PX Records library!
What animal most reflects your personality? I’m on the board of an incredible charity powering free school meals in Kenya and on my visit last year I encountered a lion on a safari walk– they’re pretty incredible animals but also with some amazing traits.
Lions are the only known cat species where individuals roar together – how’s that for being a team player?
What’s your favourite film and why? I’ll go with Down To You. Throw in a bit of hopeless romantic comedy, a dream of becoming a chef, Freddie Prinze Jr, Julia Stiles and The Fonz… and boom.
It just beats Wayne’s World (I try to keep it light-hearted with movies).
What has been the most embarrassing moment in your life? As a very young (and vegetarian) M&A adviser 20 years back, I had a completion dinner in a mansion on the Isle of Wight with 20 private equity clients and partners after we completed the purchase of a ferry business…however there was no menu, and steak was the only option coming out of the kitchen.
On announcing I was veggie, the chef came out and simply offered me a can of spaghetti hoops. So I had that whilst everyone else laughed. I was veggie for 22 years, but it ended when I joined a previous employer! At Pizza Express, our founder didn’t eat meat and over half our menu is vegetarian – so I’ve definitely been having more veggie days again.
Which celebrity would you most like to work with and why? Perhaps we need to run a poll to find out who this would be… but either way, it’s got to be linked to a campaign we could run for our American Hot pizza, to have dinner with Britain’s hottest American!
What would your death row meal be? This one’s easy. A Classic La Reine from Pizza Express, loaded pesto Dough Balls and a bottle of our £45 Barolo. Worth every penny!