Cateys 2021: Lifetime Achievement Award: Alastair Storey

08 September 2021
Cateys 2021: Lifetime Achievement Award: Alastair Storey

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The previous two times The Caterer's Top 100 most powerful and influential people in hospitality listing was compiled, in 2012 and 2018, Alastair Storey emerged in first place. An unstinting champion of the hospitality industry, not only does he head up the largest independent catering business in the UK, but he is also chairman of Springboard and of the trustees of the Gold Service Scholarship, a governor of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, and patron of the Edge Hotel School.

Quite simply, if Storey can lend his support, he will. In 2016, he began a three-year term as president of the Institute of Hospitality, and in the same year became the first foodservice operator to be inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame. The following year, he was made an OBE for services to business and the wider hospitality industry. He is also a patron of Swings & Smiles, a charity that offers support, friendship and play for children with special needs and their families.

But Storey wasn't always destined for a career in hospitality. He was born in 1953 in the Aberdeenshire village of Fyvie and educated at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen. Originally bound for art school, he found his head turned by a summer job as a waiter in a hotel in Fife. "I really enjoyed it," he recalled decades later. "I realised I might have a better talent for hospitality than for art, and there were probably better job prospects as well."

After completing a course at the Scottish Hotel School, he joined Sutcliffe Catering Services as a trainee in 1975. The following 25 years saw him rise to the heady post of group managing director of Sutcliffe's south-east region, and he was ultimately responsible for a business that grew to over £900m of sales.

Describing himself as "a very late-blooming entrepreneur", he set up Wilson Storey with business partner and former finance director Keith Wilson in 2000 to create a new type of catering proposition in the marketplace, focusing on fresh, seasonal food, great service and a commitment to training excellence. The pair quickly secured a mouth-watering deal with French company Groupe Le Duff to roll out its Brioche Dorée stores in the UK, and they were on their way to huge success.

Soon after, Wilson Storey merged with Halliday Catering, and the famous WSH abbreviation was born. A merger with Houston & Church swiftly followed, and three years later the company acquired Cater Link before merging with BaxterSmith to become BaxterStorey.

Storey is chairman and chief executive of parent company WSH. A shrewd strategist, he has had an enormous influence on the foodservice industry. His acquisition of high-street brand Benugo in 2008, for example, was a game changer for the B&I sector, with many of WSH's rivals going down similar roads, with differing levels of success.

For seasoned Catey judge Hannah Horler, managing director of Cartwheel Recruitment and vice chair of Springboard's fundraising committee, few people come close to Storey's standing in the industry. "His passion, enthusiasm, commitment and drive know no bounds," she says. "Since early on in his career, he has displayed incredible leadership skills, and audacious acquisitions over the years have helped him to create one of the most impressive businesses of our time."

The judges

The editorial team of The Caterer, with nominations from all the Cateys' judging panels

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