Foodservice Caterer Award
Sponsored by Seafish
2014 Winner: Sue Parfett
Independent education catering specialist The Brookwood Partnership was founded in 1996 by our winner Sue Parfett alongside 2008 Foodservice Caterer of the Year Kate Martin, and Graham Sibthorp on the pillars of people, food and clients. Now, 18 years later, it's clear that this founding philosophy remains as strong as ever.
Parfett was the driving force behind the company's engagement in the largest workplace engagement survey in the UK, the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For.
Having featured in the list five times, Brookwood rose through the ranks to be placed second in 2014, with Parfett's efforts to nurture industry talent leading to Brookwood coming in first in the categories of Clearest Expectations, Most Appreciative Bosses, Working Together and Most Honest Managers.
Parfett is widely regarded as an effective and down to earth people manager, who will go out of her way to meet all new starters as part of their induction and with annual turnover expected to hit £33m for 2013/14 (2012/13: £24m), that's no small feat.
At the same time she also makes sure to have her hands in the flour as much as possible, helping out at hospitality events and working alongside the team when she visits a site.
This hands-on approach to leadership is combined with an unquenchable passion for staff development. With 30 years' experience in hospitality, Parfett has been responsible for training thousands of people, many of whom have since gone on to hold senior roles themselves, and this zeal extends beyond the boundaries of the Brookwood stable, thanks to her work with Springboard over the past six years. As well as being a business partner and
deputy chair of the London Advisory Board for the industry charity, she has been influential in shaping the content and implementation of Springboard's INSPIRE Quality Standard for Work Experience for foodservice.
In particular, 2013 was a memorable year for the company and not always for happy reasons. Having played a pivotal role in the acquisition of Graysons Education in May, a move that saw a considerable increase in Brookwood's northern presence, Parfett was instrumental in rallying the troops following the sudden death of co-founder Sibthorp in December. The untimely passing of this respected foodservice leader came as the caterer moved into the busy Christmas period and two days after fellow Brookwood Partner Martin underwent major surgery. In the days that followed, Parfett visited every corner of the business to offer leadership support and more importantly heartfelt hugs as the company united in grief.
What the judges said "Sue has been instrumental in building Brookwood into the admired business it is today. Here is a company that pioneered the significant improvement in food quality and service that is now prevalent in the independent schools sector. In this past year Sue has also had to rise to the challenge of holding it all together after the sudden death of her business partner Graham Sibthorp. Underpinning all this is a consistent and valuable input to The Springboard Charity, into which she has thrown herself with characteristically quiet but compelling and effective vigour. In a very
competitive field, no other candidate has achieved so much over the past year and this is an extremely well deserved award."
Shortlisted Caroline Fry, CH&Co
Sue Parfett, The Brookwood Partnership
Paul Robottom, Caterplus
Andrew Wilson and Carolyne Vale, Wilson Vale
The judges Phil Hooper, Corporate affairs director, Sodexo
Hannah Horler, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
Robyn Jones, founder, CH&Co
Noel Mahony, chief executive, BaxterStorey
Kate Martin, managing partner, The Brookwood Partnership
Chris Stern, managing director, Stern Consultancy
Mike Sunley, chief executive, Lexington Catering