Cateys 2016: Foodservice Caterer Award

08 July 2016
Cateys 2016: Foodservice Caterer Award

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Ronan Harte, Holroyd Howe

Since joining Holroyd Howe as managing director in 2011, Ronan Harte has established himself as a thought leader within the contract catering market.

He quickly set about creating a catering company specialising in independent schools and put in place a challenging five-year plan to produce a market-leading brand.

His vision was to reinvent Holroyd Howe with a fresh, vibrant look, a new website and an active social media presence to reflect the brand, which describes itself as fun, creative and fast-moving with culinary innovation at its heart. And if his success in the last year alone is anything to go by, it has certainly worked.

Holroyd Howe walked away with the Education Caterer of the Year title at last year's Foodservice Cateys and the company also won a host of other industry awards throughout 2015.

The changes Harte implemented triggered significant turnover growth of 35% in the year of the rebrand launch. He has also built lasting relationships with clients by delivering quality food services and commercial models for schools. Much of the company's growth can be attributed to its client retention rate, which stands at an impressive 99.4%.

Harte is passionate about educating pupils on food and nutrition and recently gave a keynote speech on the subject at the Future of Independent Schools Conference. He insists his team engage with pupils to encourage good table manners, social etiquette and a positive dining experience.

They promote healthy eating and provide fun, interactive food tastings, cookery lessons and demonstrations of bread, sushi and sausage making. The team also create themed menus linked to the school curriculum.

Under Harte's direction, the company has doubled in size in just four years, growing revenues from £22.5m to £45m in 2014, and continuing that growth in 2015 by 25%, to a turnover of £55m. In the last 12 months the company has won a number of high-profile school contracts worth a combined £10.7m.

An example of his forward-thinking approach and ability to drive change was his swift response to the announcement of the allergens legislation. Holroyd Howe trained its team and implemented the new systems almost a year in advance of the deadline.

His most recent innovations include an exclusive partnership with the pioneering charity Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour, and in September 2015 he launched the Holroyd Howe Foundation, which has so far raised more than £3,000 for Millie's Trust.

Culinary talent is harnessed through a three-year Chef Academy programme, where chefs are tutored by Michelin-starred chef John Campbell of the Woodspeen restaurant. Meanwhile, management and leadership skills are nurtured through an Advanced Management programme. In 2015, 17 apprentices joined the business and in February 2016, the company celebrated the graduation of four Chef Academy chefs. The graduate scheme has had a 100% success rate in transferring graduates into management roles.

What the judges said

"Ronan took a business with a good name but no clear direction and completely transformed it. This is supported by amazingly strong figures."

Christopher Stern

"Ronan has created a leading business in a niche sector and is recognised clearly as the figurehead. The turnover results are excellent. He is also supportive of charities and giving back."

Hannah Horler

The shortlist

  • Ronan Harte, Holroyd Howe
  • Chris Mitchell, Genuine Dining Co
  • Mark Philpott, Vacherin
  • Allister Richards, Gather & Gather

The judges

  • Geoffrey Harrison, Chairman, Harrison Catering Services
  • Hannah Horler, Managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
  • Noel Mahony, Chief executive, BaxterStorey
  • Kate Martin, Managing partner, the Brookwood Partnership
  • Christopher Stern, Managing director, Stern Consultancy
  • Mike Sunley, Chief executive, Lexington Catering

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