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In August 2017, a year into his role as managing director of Vacherin, Phil Roker had shown he meant business, increasing turnover by 14% to £19.7m. However, it was at the end of his second year that he proved he was a force with which to be reckoned and a major player in the UK foodservice industry.
It's impossible not to start with the numbers when they're so impressive. He followed up the previous year's growth with a further 33% increase in turnover to £26.2m and a £600,000 net profit, even after taking a £105,000 hit following the collapse of Carillion.
Roker delivered nine new contract wins in the financial year, including a deal at the ITV headquarters, plus 100% retention of a customer base that includes the London Stock Exchange, Hiscox, Miller Insurance Services and PSP Investments.
A number of key promotions created a new senior leadership team that included Dan Kelly, promoted from director of food to deputy managing director; Debbie Loxley, who became project director; and Anna Morris, who was appointed director of creativity to oversee the café and restaurant offer.
Recent company innovations include a white label app, the Vacherin Excellence Tracker, to measure the delivery of the businesses' high standards, and VachChat, an app for real-time communication with every team member. Roker's new initiatives, including a revamp of the company's Hot Shots annual awards ceremony, have built a culture within which he is highly regarded by his team.
His pioneering approach to sustainability has created a company-wide passion for embracing environmental practices, while his commitment to the health and wellbeing of his people has seen the appointment of two mental health first aiders in the business.
A big factor in this particular award is what you give back, which is an area where Roker shines. For example, he led a team of nine Vacherin cyclists on a 700-mile trip to the Swiss Alps, raising £20,000 for the Luminary Bakery in 2018, and supports UK Hospitality Foodservice Forum, the Association of Culinary Excellence and Hospitality Action events.
Chairman Mark Philpott, who co-owns Vacherin alongside Roker and executive financial director Clive Hetherington, praised Roker's "boundless energy, drive, enthusiasm and continual quest for the highest standards, latest innovations or injection of creativity to set Vacherin apart".
"Phil has proven to be an exceptional custodian and we are very proud of the reputation and success of our business," said Philpott.
Indeed, Roker is an equally exceptional custodian of the coveted Foodservice Caterer Award, and deservedly takes his place in the hall of fame of industry greats.
What the judges said
"Phil has done a brilliant job driving Vacherin forward. He is very much a supporter of the wider industry and he has a brilliant long-standing, fully-engaged team who work well together."
"Phil has demonstrated great leadership, almost doubling sales"
"Phil is well-respected by his clients, team and peers. A great, food-focused business."
Allister Richards Gather & Gather
Phil Roker Vacherin
Kevin Watson Amadeus
Andrew Wilson & Carolyne Vale Wilson Vale
Ronan Harte Chief executive, Holroyd Howe
Hannah Horler Managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
Chris Mitchell Managing director, The Genuine Dining Co
Chris Stern Managing director, Stern Consultancy
Ian Thomas Chief executive, Bartlett Mitchell
Bill Toner Chief executive, CH&Co
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