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Top 100: Noel Mahony and John Bennett, BaxterStorey

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Top 100: Noel Mahony and John Bennett, BaxterStorey

Overall ranking: 31 (23 in 2012)
Foodservice ranking: 3 (3 in 2012)

Noel Mahony and John Bennett are co-chief executives at caterer BaxterStorey, the biggest brand within the WSH International Investments portfolio. Over the years BaxterStorey has won business with a number of big-name clients, including British Airways, Siemens, Cisco and EY (formerly Ernst & Young). Under Mahony and Bennett’s watch that trend has continued with the addition of PwC, Amazon and Deutsche Bank to its portfolio at the start of 2017, though the caterer lost magic circle law firm Slaughter & May and global money manager BlackRock Investments around the same time. But ultimately BaxterStorey remains a vital cog in the wider WSH machine. For the 12 months to 30 December 2016, the business had an annual turnover of £403m – more than half (55.1%) of the group’s £732m total.

What we think
In 2004, Mahony joined BaxterStorey, a new and significant independent player in the contract catering market with a combined annual turnover of £87m following the merger of Wilson Storey Halliday and BaxterSmith.

The winner of the 2009 Foodservice Caterer of the Year Catey award, Mahony stepped up to become chief executive in 2011, at which point BaxterStorey had reported year-on-year growth of 15% and £240m in annual turnover.

Bennett, formerly chief operating officer of WSH’s education businesses Holroyd Howe and Caterlink, was appointed co-chief executive a year later. He joined BaxterStorey in 2006 from his role as head of national accounts at Compass. His track record was impressive. During a six-year stint as an area manager at Sutcliffe Catering, which was owned by Granada prior to the merger with Compass in 2001, he achieved 100% client retention while quadrupling turnover.

It has been more than five years since Bennett joined Mahony at the top of the BaxterStorey tree in a move that raised more than a few industry eyebrows at the time. But theirs is an enduring partnership with each man bringing their own talent to the table.

Mahony combines an assiduous approach with an easy manner, while Bennett nurtures client relationships and develops strategy. Their styles are complementary and their ability to work well together is beneficial to a business that manages to consistently grow, both in terms of revenue and geography.

Of course, Alastair Storey, as chairman and chief executive of BaxterStorey’s parent company WSH International Investments, remains firmly in charge of deciding the direction of the diverse group of businesses. And it is not without challenges.

BaxterStorey brings in more than half the revenue of a £700m catering giant and this climbing sense of scale may prompt the sort of clients seeking a contractor closer to the  boutique end of the spectrum to look elsewhere.

But in Mahony and Bennett, Storey has two ready and able lieutenants to maintain the service levels and quality upon which BaxterStorey built its reputation.

Further information

BaxterStorey named Sustainable Business of the Year at Edie awards >>

BaxterStorey and chef Hayden Groves launch charity cookbook for Cure Leukaemia >>

Simon Esner and Alison Gilbert take top awards at Foodservice Cateys 2017 >>

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