Gondola has appointed Stephen Holmes as the new managing director of its ASK Italian chain.

Holmes, who has been with Gondola since the end of 2001, has been promoted from operations director for the c120-strong chain, a position he has held for nearly three years. Previous to that he spent eight years as London regional director of Pizza Express.

Gondola is currently looking for managing directors for its Pizza Express and Zizzi chains, after the departures this summer of Steve Easterbrook and Helen Jones to Wagamama and Caffe Nero respectively.

Earlier this year, the company placed 14 sites from its Ask estate on the market as its looks to trim the tail of the chain. It is also converting a handful to Pizza Express.

Gondola is currently in the process of converting a number of its Ask sites to its new Ask Italian format. It expects to convert a minimum of 25 sites during its current financial year, taking the number of restaurants under the updated format to 45.

The group launched its first new look Ask Italian in London’s Paddington and unveiled a second next-generation restaurant in Solihull at the end of 2010.