Zsolt Pálinkás, Chief Operating Officer, Tesco Central Europe

  • 29 Nov 2015 11:00 AM
Zsolt Pálinkás, Chief Operating Officer, Tesco Central Europe
Zsolt has two BSc degrees in Economics from a couple of different respected institutions: Budapest Business School (1999 – 2003) and the University of Debrecen (2002 – 2004).

He started his career at Tesco in May 2003 with the title of 'Operations Hardlines Non Food Manager', and he hit all operational KPIs while leading his team - a winning start to his successful career, leading him to now be the local head of Tesco in Hungary.

In March 2006 Zsolt accepted the role of Project Manager Marketing, and was then promoted to Category Business Manager Hardlines (2007 – 2010); Trading Director Fresh Food (2010 – 2013); Trading Director Fresh Food (2010 – 2013); Trading Director Hardlines (2013 – 2014), before becoming the Chief Operation Officer and Member of the Executive Team at Tesco Hungary in August 2014 – a position he held until March this year.

Following a recent restructuring at the company, Zsolt took the key role of Retail Director this March and now leads the company in Hungary, reporting directly to the CE board. His wealth of experience at the company serves him well - be it with leading Seasonal Categories within hardlines like stationary, gardening, and entertainment departments, as well as marketing strategy, and being responsible for fresh food commercial categories - and his track record is one of always delivering growth in sales and profit - always with a care for customer service, the people involved at Tesco, and its business partners.

To sum up, Zsolt can rightly be described as a results driven and capable commercial executive, who possesses a friendly and personable approach. Finding enjoyment in challenging briefs, he is able to work to an exemperary standard under considerable pressure - whilst presenting a positive attitude.

After working hours his hobbies include squash, winter sports, watching movies, jazz music, and reading - most of all he enjoys spending time with his family.

1. Where did you grow up?
In Budapest, I was also born here, as were my parents. My family originates from Szeged, and we go back to visit from time to time. For years we lived in Budapest’s 2nd district, then we moved to the green surroundings of Csömör in Pest County, just on the border with the capital.

2. If you could be an expat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Italy, in the North. I love Italian traditions, the mountains there, the sea, and the really fine food and wine.

3. What would you miss most if you moved away from Hungary?
Familiar traditions, and the thinking of this unique nation. The language and the history is also something I’d miss. And family traditions, we Hungarians have the habit of owning a home and planning ahead for generations.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
I would first take them into a pub outside the city, to see the 20th century culture that is still alive there, and then work our way into the city centre from there. For food I’d suggest a visit to Borkonyha, or TG, advising them to start with a good soup, then try some goose liver, and follow up with a pork dish, all starting with a pálinka of course.

5. What is your favourite food?
Sztapacska, yes actually a Slovakian dish. I also really like simple food like lecsó, spicy style, preferably cooked outside in a bogrács.

6. What is your favourite sport / form of exercise?
I play tennis, as well as squash. When I was younger I was a professional table tennis player for years. Basically I like sports with racquets and bats.

7. What is your favourite place in Hungary?
Well, all around the Chain Bridge. Plus I like to walk in the square near Basilica, and also it’s nice to go up into the hills of the 2nd district where there are good view points. In Szeged I like the water front area.

8. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
A career in the telecom sector maybe, as I really like gadgets, and the evolution and speed of this business area is amazing.

9. What’s a job you would definitely never want?
Working in a restaurant. I feel it’s the most demanding type of work, not on terms of the mental challenge but the long hours mean being away from the family too much.

10. Where did you spend your last vacation?
Croatia, after visiting Turkey for the last few years, we went back to Vrsar, a place we visited 30 years ago for the first time, and it was still as pleasant as ever.

11. Where do you hope to spend your next one?
In Paris with my wife, just the two of us. And to go back to Turkey with the family, as it’s enjoyable and very comfortable there, some hotels we’ve stayed in even had a zoo, which keeps the kids happy, perfect for a family holiday.

12. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
Move: The Indiana Jones series. Music: Mike Oldfield which I used to love listening to on my father’s top of the range hi-fi. Hobby: lots, especially skiing with friends and family, we usually go snowboarding three times per year.

13. Apart of temptation what can’t you resist?
A good constructive conversation. It’s something I feel is a secret of my success and progress, listening and engaging with others views and ideas is essential, and I enjoy it and feel it’s a necessity.

14. Red wine or white?
Red. Cabernet and Merlot, recently those from Argentina, but I love Hungarian ones too.

15. Book or movie?
Watching films. The last film I saw was Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise.

16. Morning person or night person?

17. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
The importance of traditions, and how modern life often leaves less time for these. As a father I’m experiencing the need to really balance work and life commitments, and feel distance is too easily created in families these days. I’m miss traditional ways, yet at the same time while with the family I focus on being in the present. I’m really curious about how society will develop in future and how it will affect families.

18. Buda or Pest side?

19. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased about?
First on a personal level, it’s finishing the construction of my dream house. On a professional level, it’s achieving a goal of stocking 100% local Hungarian chicken in all our Tesco stores, it was a three years process this is good for producers and customers alike. We got the 3rd place creative campaign award for this from Progressiv Magazin.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?
You always have a choice. I am not a believer of lost causes; there is always a way forward in every situation.

  • How does this interview make you feel?