Mark Seastron, 35, is commercial development director at Sodexho Defence Services, where he oversees both the operation of catering, retail and leisure services and the acquisition of new business. He has worked with the catering group, which provides services to the Armed Forces, since January 2004.
In 1989 Seastron decided to leave behind management training at Barclays Bank and move to the USA for two years. He worked at the Rocky Point Leisure Park on Rhode Island, where he was food services supervisor, leading a team of 200.
"The theme park had between 50 and 60 fast-food outlets, and running these as a 19-year-old was an amazing and exciting experience for me," says Seastron. "It gave me a good grounding in terms of developing my management skills."
Back in the UK, he launched a retail career with Sainsbury's and, after a year, in 1991 moved on to Argos, where he stayed for seven years.
From 1998 to 2002 he worked at Welcome Break, the motorway services and hotel operator, where, from 2000, he was director of retail. His role was multi-faceted and he oversaw every aspect of the operation, including car parks, shops, hotels and catering.
Seastron had plenty of challenges to tackle at Welcome Break and was forced to make some hard decisions to take the business forward. His aptitude for people management helped him bring in the necessary changes, and he made an effort to promote outstanding team members to strengthen the operation. He concedes that not everyone agreed with all of his choices and general strategy, but he learnt a lot from his time there and found the experience "very grounding".
After 18 months of working as an independent retail consultant, he joined Sodexho in 2004 as commercial development director at Sodexho Defence Services.
His aim in his current job is to bring the retail mentality into catering. "It is a major cultural change for caterers to get into the retail mind-set, and a big challenge for me to get them to think differently - but it's also very rewarding when I do."
Salary Watch: What food service managers should be earning
|London||Rest of the UK|
|Business and industry|
|Unit manager, up to 500 on site||£18,000-£27,000||£16,000-£23,000|
|Unit manager, 500-plus on site||£25,000-£34,000||£20,000-£28,000|
|Unit manager, up to 500 on site||£16,000-£24,000||£14,000-£20,000|
|Unit manager, 500-plus on site||£19,000-£28,000||£17,000-£24,000|
Source: Berkeley Scott Group Plc