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ROBYN AND TIM JONES, CH&CO GROUP
Robyn and Tim Jones have been one of the most respected and celebrated duos in catering for decades. Theirs is an almost-rags to riches story: a company originally named Charlton House, started by Robyn on a wallpaper pasting table using a £2,500 redundancy cheque, with a six-month signing with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association as its first contract. A run of extra clients followed, with the breakthrough deal a £400,000 agreement with Sony's corporate headquarters.
The company now has a turnover approaching £200m per year, with more than 4,500 employees and contracts and over 400 operations in the UK and Ireland. Robyn was made an OBE in the 2010 New Year's Honours list, and there has been much talk of the company's legacy within the sector in recent months.
Sadly, the industry was forced to say goodbye to Robyn last month. Aged just 54, she passed away on 21 September following a long illness. As the sole judges for this award, The Caterer team takes comfort in knowing that when Tim was informed of the pair's award win a few weeks before her death, Robyn was said to be "chuffed to bits".
Central to the ongoing achievement of the company she leaves behind has been the merger with the Host Catermasters Group, which was formally announced in July this year and has cemented the company's position as a catering powerhouse. Success hasn't always been straightforward though; prior to the final merger announcement it had been rumoured that the couple might even sell entirely (a rumour they always denied).
Instead, however, the company has gone from strength to strength across its many different brands, which number Ampersand, Charlton House, Lusso, Chester Boyd, Via 360 and ITA. It has built on HCM's existing clients to bring ever more business to the umbrella.
This isn't the first time the company has been celebrated by the Cateys, of course: as far back as 2006, Robyn was winning praise from the judges of our Foodservice Caterer Catey for her hard work, good judgment on deals and business acumen in finding acquisition through word of mouth and positive recommendations.
Similarly, this contribution extends beyond CH&Co itself. Chairman Tim recently joined industry charity Hospitality Action (HA) on its board of trustees, and Robyn was well-known for her passionate support of the PM Trust.
Commenting on his appointment when it was announced in September, HA chief executive Penny Moore commended Tim on his "keen business sense and dedication to the industry", and added: "[Tim] will have a direct and positive impact on the charity's work. We are all looking forward to welcoming him and the successful times ahead."
This compassionate, open outlook famously runs through the company's ethos as a whole, with Robyn having always made a point of being available and accessible to staff, with each employee receiving personal favours such as birthday cards and Christmas presents.
When Robyn won the 2006 Foodservice Caterer Catey, one judge commented: "It's bordering on ridiculous that [Robyn] hasn't won [this award] before." And the same could be said today of the duo, but this time as overseers of two great company histories, subsumed under one of the fastest-growing, most impressive foodservice firms ever.
There is no doubt that the inspiring and incredible legacy that Robyn helped to build will continue to live on through Tim and the company's loyal team.
2014 Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, Leon Restaurants
2013 David Mulcahy, Sodexo