Paramount poaches rival chief

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The Independent Online

Chez Gerard owner Paramount is understood to be considering a nationwide expansion after poaching a new chief operating officer from rival restaurant group ASK Central.

Chez Gerard owner Paramount is understood to be considering a nationwide expansion after poaching a new chief operating officer from rival restaurant group ASK Central.

Philip Wickens, 44, was managing director at the ASK-owned Zizzi restaurant chain. Mr Wickens started by opening two outlets in London before going on to build up the chain to 54 sites nationwide.

Paramount acquired Groupe Chez Gerard last year. Since then, it has been overhauling the portfolio, including selling loss-making sites, refurbishing restaurants and updating menus. It is now understood to be keen to expand. Its chains include Bertorelli, Livebait and Café Fish as well as steak and chips outfit Chez Gerard.

Part of the attraction of Mr Wickens was his experience in building up the Zizzi chain, said one insider. His appointment also strengthens Para- mount's board, which currently consists of just two executive directors, chairman Guy Naggar and chief executive Nick Basing.

Mr Wickens joined ASK Central in 1999. Prior to that he worked for City Centre Restaurants, which recently saw its attempt to buy ASK trumped by a rival bid from TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures, the owner of PizzaExpress.

Earlier this year Paramount, which reports interim results tomorrow, reported a 6 per cent rise in underlying sales over the festive season.

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