Overall ranking: 1 (ranked 13 in 2011)
Contract caterer ranking: 1 (ranked 2 in 2011)
Alastair Storey – Snapshot
As chairman and chief executive of the largest independent catering group in the UK, Alastair Storey has considerable clout in the food service market. His company, Westbury Street Holdings (WSH), is the parent company of business and industry caterer BaxterStorey, café-deli concept Benugo, private education caterer Holroyd Howe Independent, state sector education caterer Caterlink, BaxterStorey Ireland and Scotland, and reception management service Portico.
The company has consistently defied recession. Over the past year it has expanded into Europe, with new operations in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. Along with other significant contract wins in the UK, such as RBS, Black Rock, Goldman Sachs and BBC Salford Quays, this expansion has ensured another strong year of growth as turnover lifted 12% to £406mm in the 12 months to 31 December 2011, (from £362m in 2010).
This year’s results are expected to be good, too, following a record number of new contract wins this year, worth about £70m in annual turnover. The strong performance has resulted in the recruitment of 500 new members of staff.Alastair Storey – 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 Caterlink in Kent, and in November 2004 Wilson Storey Halliday merged with BaxterSmith to become BaxterStorey, with William Baxter assuming the deputy chief executive role (which he has now relinquished for a non-executive role at the company).
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.
Alastair Storey – What we think
Alastair Storey’s strategy of investing in the workforce and using a more retail-focused approach to provide food service has helped to grow the company’s market share in otherwise difficult trading conditions.
The deal for Holroyd Howe and Benugo in 2007 gave a national reach to one of the strongest independent caterers in a sector dominated – until then – 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 its size in terms of turnover and scope had established the independent as a credible national alternative.
Combined with a commitment to sustainable business practices, such as sourcing only British meat and free-range eggs, and innovative training programmes, such as the Chef Academy, the success story shows no sign of ending. Indeed, earlier this year WSH won a Good Food on the Public Plate Award for its commitment to sustainable food service.
Last year, the business entered a new phase with Noel Mahony promoted to chief executive at WSH’s biggest brand, BaxterStorey, which in 2011 saw turnover climb 7.6% in England, 20% in Ireland and 25% in Scotland. He was joined in May this year, by chief operating officer of WSH’s education businesses John Bennett, who now acts as co-chief executive.
Storey remains chairman of BaxterStorey and in his executive position at WSH, very much in charge. A reshuffling of other executive positions across the group helped to position the business for further regional development.
While Storey has aimed for growth across all sectors, he set out to significantly boost the education sector, where he acknowledged the company had, “a relatively modest share of the market”. The results speak for themselves – Caterlink, the state education catering specialist, and Holroyd Howe, which caters for the independent education market, saw year-on-year growth of 27% and 26% respectively in last December’s financials.
For sure, Storey has a healthy respect for the fragile economy, but his quiet confidence in his brands seems to be well-founded.