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The Caterer

William Baxter

12 May 2005
William Baxter

Overall ranking: 57

Contract caterer ranking: 11

Snapshot

William Baxter is the deputy chief executive of BaxterStorey, the UK's fifth largest contract caterer and its biggest independent player. It was formed in November 2004 from the merger of Berkshire-based Wilson Storey Halliday with Buckinghamshire-based BaxterSmith.

The company, which began trading in January 2005, has an annual turnover of £105m (projected to rise to £115m this year). It employs 2,400 people across more than 230 contracts in the UK and Ireland, which focus on the business and industry sector. Clients include Barclays, DaimlerChrysler, Marks & Spencer, Nokia, and Selfridges.

Baxter is in charge of the marketing and sales operation where he oversees client retention, supplier relations, in-house teamwork and customer satisfaction research.

Career guide

Baxter, now in his mid-forties, started as a pot washer and waiter at the Selfridge hotel in Oxford Street in 1978. Between 1979 and 1982, he gained his HND in hotel and catering institutional management before joining P&O's Sutcliffe Catering as an assistant manager. He rose through the ranks to become area manager of the Thames Valley.

He left in 1987 to form Baxter & Platts with former Sutcliffe area manager Robert Platts. The pair sold the company to Granada in 1997 for an estimated £16m and Baxter stayed on as executive chairman.

He teamed up with Mike Smith (his managing director at Baxter & Platts) to form BaxterSmith in May 2000. A Scottish division was launched in 2002 that had 24 contracts when it was sold to its managing director Alan Aitken shortly before the merger with Wilson Halliday Storey in November 2004.

What we think

Baxter has clocked up more than 25 years experience in the contract catering arena and has founded two highly successful companies that set the benchmark for aspiring food service entrepreneurs.

At Sutcliffe Catering, Baxter was area manager of 17 West End sites by the age of 23 and was soon overseeing 50 sites as area manager for the Thames Valley.

His first venture, Baxter & Platts, quickly established a reputation as a quality business offering a fair deal to clients and staff. Its ability to forge long-lasting partnerships with clients was underlined by the fact that it did not lose a contract until 1995. Baxter won the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Food Service Caterer of the Year award in 1997 during this time.

When he sold the company to Granada, it had 130 contracts and a £23m turnover. When he left in September 1999, it had grown to a £90m turnover operation with more than 300 contracts and 4,000 staff.

He repeated his success with BaxterSmith, where his partner and managing director Mike Smith scooped the Catey Food Service Cater of the Year award in 2004. The group had a £30m turnover when it merged with Wilson Storey Halliday last autumn to become the UK's fifth largest player.

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