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Simon Esner has played a pivotal role in shaping one of the sector's great success stories. A chef by training, this consistently cheerful character has led the sales operation at WSH, parent company of BaxterStorey, for over a quarter of a century.
In the early years of Halliday Catering he worked alone, relying on his resolve, commitment and instinct to deliver the growth required to sustain the business.
Now he leads a dedicated sales team spanning the whole of the country. This outstanding business development specialist not only works hard to build relationships outside his business, but has also created a culture of healthy competition within his department to ensure that teams share information, work together and succeed together as a cohesive unit.
Under Esner's guidance, the business expanded into Ireland and in 2012 moved into Northern Europe. BaxterStorey Ireland started operations in 2007 and now turns over annual revenues of â¬50m (£45m) and employs some 4,000 colleagues.
But this larger than life character isn't purely defined by his business success.
His passion for food, people and service has led him to assist in boosting the profile of hospitality and working with charities in the sector. He regularly fundraises for the Royal Marsden and Great Ormond Street Hospital, is a patron of Springboard and is a newly appointed trustee of Hospitality Action.
Esner is passionate about supporting talent, lending support to rising stars in the industry, and has been central to high-profile deals such as the launch of restaurant Mere with MasterChef 's Monica Galetti and the joint venture
arrangement with celebrated chef Mark Hix.
Consultant Chris Stern says that even after such a long and distinguished career, his enthusiasm for the industry remains as strong as ever. "His knowledge of what is going on and his contacts are unsurpassed," he adds. "The rise and rise of BaxterStorey and latterly WSH group is to no small degree thanks to the effectiveness of his approach and his total commitment. The front-line team are, of course, generally the most recognisable, but without imon's driving force over so many years, it's unlikely WSH would be the success it is now."
WSH chairman and chief executive Alastair Storey says he is indebted to Esner for what he has brought to the business. "I have had the privilege of working with Simon for nearly two decades," he says. "He loves the hospitality industry and his every waking moment is spent promoting its virtues. He has a huge personality and really cares about quality and service. He is also unbelievably positive and is completely unstinting when it comes to helping in a challenging situation.
"Although he is responsible for the sales function in our business - a role he performs to the highest standards - his contribution to the business and his dedication to our clients and customers is awesome.
"I love working with him because he cares so deeply about everything we do, but he also has a sense of fun and adventure that is highly infectious. This is a man I first met at a Christmas party, giving out presents and dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Not many people have the self-deprecation to pull that off.
"I am so delighted that Simon is being honoured in this way. It is thoroughly deserved."
2016 Phil Hooper, Sodexo
2015 Robyn & Tim Jones, CH&Co Group
2014 Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent
2013 David Mulcahy, Sodexo
This award was judged by The Caterer editorial team