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Foodservice Cateys 2016: Catering Manager of the Year

20 October 2016
Foodservice Cateys 2016: Catering Manager of the Year

Sponsored by Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

Murray Soper, Bartlett Mitchell

Bartlett Mitchell's Murray Soper stood out as a truly excellent candidate in what the judges agreed was a very tough category.

Soper is based at a client site with around 1,000 potential customers, a catering team of 20 and an annual turnover of around £1.4m. Services at the site include a full staff restaurant with deli bar, theatre station, traditional hot counter, soup station, salad bar, and grab and go. There is also a dedicated conference/ hospitality floor with meeting rooms, as well as a delivery service throughout six floors and a vending operation with 35 different machines, plus 12 tea points with free tea and coffee.

With only revisions to the offer, signage, marketing and the team in his arsenal, Soper, together with his then general manager, nonetheless managed to achieve year-on-year sales growth of 21% in the restaurant, 2% in the coffee bar and 12% in hospitality in the first year of the new contract.

Customer satisfaction also made a marked improvement. Once the contract was extended for another two years, Soper became the general manager as his predecessor moved on to Bartlett Mitchell's biggest contract. Since taking over, Soper has been responsible for some clever, innovative initiatives. One of the major changes he has made has been to the theatre station. Instead of offering themes changing on a daily basis, with wraps on a Monday and curries on a Friday, he introduced weekly themes with daily-changing menus and a commitment to homemade, authentic food. Mexican week had burritos one day, tamales the following and tacos the next.

They also developed international and experience-based themes like A Day at the Seaside and, in particular, A Day at the Fairground was successful. Restaurant sales increased 10%.

He was also instrumental in moving the site's coffee bar from a Costa to a smaller, UK-roasted coffee brand and relaunched the brand. Manual machines replaced automatic, and the team completed extensive barista training. Coffee sales increased by 23%. And that's before you even really consider his efforts to champion healthy eating, his ability to make the offer more accessible and to tap into new trends, or the fact that absenteeism and employee turnover have both dropped on his watch. A worthy winner in a competitive field.

What the judges said

"Murray's entry impressed me as his commitment to his team and their development was evident. A passionate leader and deserved winner."

Stephanie Hamilton, ISS Facility Services UK

"Great operational and financial performance, showing leadership in developing the company's first centre for excellence, and a recognition that team development and empowerment is the key to success."

Andy Harris, ISS Group

"Murray demonstrated incredible tenacity and drive with great initiatives."

Noel Mahony, BaxterStorey

Shortlisted

  • Loulou Reyes Benitez Vacherin
  • Philip Lockyer Holroyd Howe
  • Murray Soper Bartlett Mitchell

Past winners

  • 2015 Emma Williams Green & Fortune
  • 2014 Jamie Stevenson BaxterStorey
  • 2013 Renier Oberholzer Harbour & Jones

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