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Rick Holroyd and Rick Howe

21 September 2006

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe

Overall ranking: 51 (New entry)

Contract caterers ranking: 12

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe are joint managing directors of independent contract caterer Holroyd Howe, which they set up together in 1997 to target the B&I and education markets.

The Amersham-based group initially focused on London and the Home Counties but has now grown into a national player.

Holroyd Howe currently has 780 staff across 91 contracts, which include FTSE 100 companies, small owner-operated firms and independent schools.

It expects to achieve a turnover of £34m in 2006.

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe - Career guide

Rick Holroyd, who is 45, started his career in 1984 as an operations manager for Quadrant, then the Royal Mail's in-house caterer.

In 1987 he joined Sutcliffe Catering, initially as an area manager for a £2m-a-year turnover contract with a major UK computer organisation. In 1990 he became general manager of sales for the group's core City and London businesses including the new Docklands development.

He joined Midlands-based Nelson Hind Catering in 1994 as general manger of sales for its B&I and education markets in the South East of England.

Nick Howe, who is 47, was bitten with the hospitality bug when he worked as a waiter in a five-star Cambridge hotel.

Between 1982 and 1984 he worked as food and beverage manager for Anchor Hotels in South Yorkshire, spent six months supplying detergents to the catering industry, and worked as a waiter at the world-famous Lygon Arms in Worcestershire.

He joined Sutcliffe Catering West in 1984, initially managing prestige units such as Burmah Oil and Sir William Halcrow. Howe then took two area manager jobs at Sutcliffe - firstly looking after its Ministry of Defence business in the South East and Thames Valley area, then handling its core City, London and Docklands businesses.

Howe left in 1989 to become operations director at Baxter & Platts where he was responsible for 65 blue-chip companies. He boosted turnover from £500,000 to £30m before leaving in 1997 (when Granada Food Services bought the group) to set up Holroyd Howe.

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe - What we think

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe first met in their twenties in 1986 when they were area managers at Sutcliffe Catering working on the new Docklands development.

Eleven years later they came together again to strike out on their own with Holroyd Howe.

Holroyd and Howe are more interested in retaining satisfied customers than in growth for growth's sake and have, like Charlton House, expanded the company organically rather than by acquisition. Their goal is to become a leading independent caterer with a 100% retention rate.

Neverthless, growth has been brisk. Within five years, in December 2002, Holroyd Howe hit the 50-contract milestone and it is now gunning for 175 contracts and a £60m turnover within the next three years.

2004 netted two firsts for the group. In July it won its first national contract in a deal to cater for 3,750 staff at 18 sites owned by utility company RWE Group. Four months later it scooped its first Government contract feeding 400 staff and visitors at the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport's offices in Cockspur Street.

The group's approach means sales growth has not come at the expense of profits. In 2005, it boosted pre-tax profit by 77% to £638,000 and turnover by 46% to £26.7m, an achievement that placed it 24th in the list of Europe's 500 fastest growing companies.

Holroyd and Howe's commitment to developing their staff saw them shoot 29 places up the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For listing in 2006, from 94th to 65th position. More than 70% of their employees said they were made to feel they had a valuable contribution to make, were proud to work there, and felt fully involved.

This year Holroyd Howe announced plans to open a regional office in Leeds and to launch an education division for the private schools market - a move that may even see it break with tradition to buy a smaller player in the sector.

Rick Holroyd and Nick Howe - Further information

Holroyd Howe official website

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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