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Caterersearch.com 100: Alastair Storey and William Baxter

Caterersearch.com 100: Alastair Storey and William Baxter

Overall ranking: 21


Food service ranking: 2


Alastair Storey and William Baxter – Snapshot


As chief executive and deputy chief executive, respectively, of the largest “independent” caterer in the UK, Alastair Storey and William Baxter have considerable clout in the food service market. Their company, Westbury Street Holdings (WSH), is home to business and industry caterer BaxterStorey, Benugo, Holroyd Howe Independent (private education caterer), Cater Link (state sector education caterer), BaxterStorey Ireland and reception management service Portico. Despite the recession putting pressure on employers’ ability to provide restaurants and feeding for their staff, the group continues to grow, with turnover now north of £300m, of which BaxterStorey accounts for 70% (£216m). WSH employs more than 8,500 staff, and in 2009 the group invested £1.1m in training initiatives, including its Chef Academy and Barista Academy. A new management training programme is launching this year. Clients include Barclays, and Swiss Re, housed in London’s “Gherkin”.


Alastair Storey and William Baxter – Career guide


Alastair Storey started his career in 1975 as a trainee manager at P&O’s Sutcliffe Catering Services and rose to become managing director of Sutcliffe Catering South East. After Granada bought Sutcliffe in 1993 and Forte in 1996, Storey became managing director of the newly formed Granada Food Services division.


He went solo in September 2000, when he launched Wilson Storey with his former finance director Keith Wilson and landed a deal with Groupe Le Duff of France to roll out its La Brioche Dorée stores in the UK.


In December 2000 Wilson Storey merged with Wokingham-based Halliday Catering Services, which had grown to become the UK’s largest independent contract caterer since its formation in 1985 by Linda and George Halliday. In May 2001 Wilson Storey Halliday merged with Berkshire caterer Houston & Church, which had an annual turnover of £7m.


In 2004 Storey gained a strong foothold in the healthcare and education markets with the acquisition of £10m-turnover Cater Link in Kent, and in November 2004 Wilson Storey Halliday merged with BaxterSmith to become BaxterStorey.


In 2007 Storey pulled off his biggest deal to date with the purchase of Holroyd Howe and Benugo in a double deal that cemented the caterer as a viable alternative to the long-established big four of Compass, Sodexo, Elior and Aramark.


William Baxter’s career follows a similar pattern, although he started as a potwasher and waiter at the Selfridge hotel in London’s Oxford Street in 1978. Between 1979 and 1982 he gained his HND in hotel and catering institutional management before joining P&O’s Sutcliffe Catering as an assistant manager. Baxter rose through the ranks to become area manager of the Thames Valley.


He left in 1987 to form Baxter & Platts with former Sutcliffe area manager Robert Platts. The pair sold the company to Granada in 1997 for an estimated £16m and Baxter stayed on as executive chairman.


Baxter teamed up with Mike Smith – his managing director at Baxter & Platts – to form BaxterSmith in May 2000. A Scottish division was launched in 2002, which had 24 contracts when it was sold to its managing director Alan Aitken shortly before the merger with Wilson Storey Halliday in November 2004.


Alastair Storey and William Baxter – What we think


The deal for Holroyd Howe and Benugo gave a truly national reach and depth to one of the strongest independent firms in a sector dominated by the big four of Compass, Sodexo, Aramark and Elior.


Although Storey has always found the label of being one of the newly constituted “big five” unflattering, due to what he sees as a different cultural approach at BaxterStorey, the journalistic shorthand did at least emphasise that with size in terms of turnover came scope and the establishment of the independent as a credible national alternative to the larger companies that dominate the group contract market in the UK.


Combined with a commitment to sustainable business practices, such as sourcing only British meat, and innovative training programmes, such as the Chef Academy, which is a partnership with Coworth Park’s John Campbell and now Northcote Manor’s Nigel Haworth, the success story shows no sign of stopping. The business is still growing and is now snapping at the heels of larger incumbents in the sector such as Elior UK and Aramark.


Storey, when interviewed at an Arena lunch in 2008, was quite clear in his reply to ITN journalist Alastair Stewart that he saw himself working, as his father had, for many years to come. Expect big things.


Alastair Storey and William Baxter – Further information


BaxterStorey pushes WSH revenue over £300m despite “challenging year” >>


BaxterStorey swoops for caterer Holroyd Howe >>


William Baxter and Alastair Storey on the making of a marvellous merger >> 

Read more about the TheCaterer.com 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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