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A leading entrepreneur, role model, ambassador and determined operator, Wendy Bartlett has inspired many generations with her pragmatic, open and friendly approach to business, as well of her sense of generosity and support for the greater good.
Bartlett is the executive chairman of boutique operator Bartlett Mitchell, which she launched with her business partner Ian Mitchell some 18 years ago. She also heads up sister business Inn or Out Events; is a board director of UKHospitality; a trustee of the Little Troopers Charity, which supports children with parents serving in the British Armed Forces, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy; an advisory board member of Royal Holloway, University of London; and a patron of ACE, the Association of Catering Excellence, to name but a few of her extracurricular activities.
She was made an MBE in the 2015 Queen’s New Year Honours’ list, and just months later was awarded the coveted Foodservice Caterer of the Year trophy at the Catey Awards.
With a reputation for honesty, candidness and integrity, while creating a fun culture in which to work, Bartlett Mitchell has been ranked in The Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Companies To Work For no less than four times. Today, the business comprises a team of 800-plus people operating across nearly 90 locations throughout the UK with a turnover of just under £40m – critically, with no borrowing or external investment. Equally, the business goes to great lengths to operate with corporate, social and environmental responsibility at its core – an approach for which it has frequently been recognised. It was the first contract caterer to pick up the maximum three-star accreditation from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, first for one of its units and then company-wide.
When the opportunity arose for self-styled “entrepreneurial foodies” Bartlett and Mitchell to follow in the footsteps of the late Robyn Jones with their independent business, they did so in the back bedroom of Bartlett’s house with just two phones and a desk, winning their first contract on Christmas Eve 2001. The business they formed then has stayed true to the beliefs it set out on day one: celebrating local and seasonal produce; sourcing fish responsibly; supporting local farmers; feeding people well; supporting the community; treating people fairly; valuing natural resources; respecting the environment and keeping waste to an absolute minimum.
Bartlett’s journey has been inspiring. Entering the industry as a pot-washer, she went to Thames Valley University in Ealing – now the University of West London – to study catering and hotelkeeping. On graduation, she joined Sutcliffe Catering and, destined for the top, became a manager by the age of 21. She became Compass’s account director for British Airways in 1995 and then its operations director for London, before she and Mitchell forged plans to set up their own catering company.
For fellow industry professional and Hospitality Action chairman William Baxter, Bartlett always had something unique about her. “I’ve known Wendy since the Sutcliffe days. She always stood out as someone who could be totally trusted with a task; she worked hard, just got on with it, and delivered. The same could be said of her entire career.
“She always challenges the status quo, is more likely to ask ‘why not?’ than ‘why?’, and she encourages constant innovation and great team spirit. From an industry perspective, she wholeheartedly plays her part, and her down-to-earth approach gets results. She has been inspirational to many in the sector and I’m pleased to say we’ve been firm friends since we met.
I’m really proud of what she has achieved.”
2017 Simon Esner, BaxterStorey
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