Cateys 2021: Foodservice Caterer Award: Allister Richards

08 September 2021
Cateys 2021: Foodservice Caterer Award: Allister Richards

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Allister Richards joined CH&Co when Gather & Gather was acquired from Mitie in August 2019 and was promoted to chief operating officer of the fast-growing caterer in March 2020. Like every other caterer operating in the past year, his focus has been on survival through the global pandemic, but he has notched up significant achievements nevertheless.

Richards did what every business leader in the UK did last year, rapidly reviewing costs and making radical decisions to ensure the company survived. With clients terminating contracts because they had no need for catering, he took a pragmatic approach and supported those businesses, several of which have since returned to CH&Co as a result.

On top of regaining business, Richards has used the past few months to renegotiate commercial contracts – particularly integrated deals – which were so deftly handled that CH&Co's net promoter score with those clients has increased by 30 percentage points. The dynamic operator has also launched a new three-year strategy to generate substantial organic growth by bringing all aspects of the company's activities more closely together.

Even before joining CH&Co, Richards was making big ripples in foodservice. Under his leadership, Mitie's catering arm grew from £25m to £153m in seven years, almost 80% of which was organic growth. He introduced the Gathered Table chef academy, has a track record of challenging and developing great teams, and took the brave but inspired decision to rebrand Mitie Catering as Gather & Gather.

Since joining CH&Co as part of its purchase of Mitie's food arm in August 2019, Richards has led the business as it moves from a series of successful acquisitions to a united entity, with a culture that celebrates the great people, food and clients connected to the business.

As he did with Mitie, Richards has also repositioned some brands to ensure their USP doesn't get lost. Gather & Gather is focusing on workplace business outside London, while Vacherin is now CH&Co's specialist provider for prestigious buildings in central London.

Richards is the board sponsor of a project that has already halved the number of deliveries to each site as part of longer-term plans for net-zero emissions, and the business has gained and retained the top-level three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. He is also the architect of CH&Co's partnership with Well Grounded, which connects people lacking opportunities with sustainable careers in the coffee industry.

What the judges said

"Allister has shown great leadership of the business and led his team to great success." - Chris Mitchell

"Allister's profile has been high ever since he launched Gather & Gather and demonstrated an inspirational and forward-looking vision. Heading up CH&Co's transformation in consolidating after so many acquisitions will play to his strengths. He has shown the kind of positive and energetic leadership CH&Co needs." - Chris Stern

"His impact and contribution over the past decade made him the stand-out winner." - Kevin Watson

The shortlist

  • Frank Bothwell, founder, Thomas Franks
  • Bonnie May, chief executive officer, Global Infusion Group
  • Allister Richards, chief operating officer, CH&Co

The judges

  • Wendy Bartlett, executive chairman, Bartlett Mitchell
  • Chris Durant, senior consultant, Litmus Partnership
  • Ronan Harte, chief executive officer, BaxterStorey
  • Chris Mitchell, managing director, the Genuine Dining Co
  • Phil Roker, managing director, Vacherin
  • Chris Stern, managing director, Stern Consultancy
  • Kevin Watson, managing director, Amadeus
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