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Cateys 2018: Foodservice Caterer Award – Chris Mitchell

07 July 2018 by
Cateys 2018: Foodservice Caterer Award – Chris Mitchell

Sponsored by Zenith Hygiene Group and Diversey

Chris Mitchell has had a whopper of a year. In 2017 he set up two companies and bought another, strengthening Genuine Dining Group's position as a progressive catering and hotels business.

Genuine Dining snapped up London-based Japanese restaurant group Feng Sushi in March 2017 after Mitchell concluded that the business synergies were aligned and that the company could add value to his group's high-street offering. Since then, Feng Sushi has drawn in customers with hands-on events such as sushi-rolling on Tuesdays.

Earlier in the year he had formed Signature Dining, a new division to cater for the care sector, having been earlier approached by former Caterplus managing director Paul Robottom, who wanted backing to start his own business. The business secured nine contracts and turned over £3.5m in its first year.

Towards the end of 2017, Mitchell was again approached about an opportunity to bid in partnership with NIC Services Group to cater for 133 Tesco sites in the UK. Under operations director Mark Wetherall, the catering operation was rolled out across all the sites over a 12-week period.

Following this, Genuine Dining set up Honest Dining, a fully owned subsidiary that now has an annual turnover of £4m.

The judges were impressed by Mitchell's ability to "look outside of his base business to see where Genuine can expand its reach". Ronan Harte called Mitchell a "strong contributor to the sector".

When Genuine Dining Group was set up in 2011, it worked with a few public sector contracts that turned over just shy of £5m a year. Now the group has a combined annual turnover of £24m, with Genuine Dining Co alone turning over approximately £17m a year.

These impressive stats are mightily helped along by the advanced technology that Mitchell has installed close to the heart of the business, such as an iPad-based till system that not only processes transactions but also manages financial performance, tracks buying trends and runs a customer loyalty scheme. The system also takes care of staff training, product specification and ordering, allowing managers to be forward-facing, rather than cooped up in an office.

Mitchell's achievements were recognised at the 2017 Foodservice Cateys, where Genuine Dining Co was awarded the Business and Industry Caterer of the Year title. He also placed prominently in The Caterer's Top 100 power list earlier this year, ranking 12th most influential in foodservice.

What 35-year-old Mitchell has achieved in the past 12 months is something of which others can only dream. And with his aim of being the best rather than the biggest, he looks set to redefine the outsourced food- service sector for years to come.

What the judges said

"Chris has expanded a now highly respected profitable business into four different markets. He is a true leader, who invests in the wider industry, charities, his people and technology. Having been recognised as last year's Foodservice Catey winner and in the Top 100 in 2018, he makes a very worthy winner."

Hannah Horler

"Chris has shown vision, ambition and capability, not only to grow his original business, but also to develop into new areas. His organisation is a breath of fresh air, with terrific energy, resulting in a service that delights its clients."

Chris Stern

The shortlist

Tony Beales Beales Gourmet

Daniel Gill Dine

Patrick Harbour and Nathan Jones Harbour & Jones

Chris Mitchell Genuine Dining Co

The judges

Wendy Bartlett Executive chairman, Bartlett Mitchell

Geoffrey Harrison Chairman, Harrison Catering Services

Ronan Harte Managing director, Holroyd Howe

Hannah Horler Managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment

Paul Hurren Managing director, Lusso Catering

Kate Martin Managing director, Brookwood Partnership

Chris Stern Managing director, Stern Consultancy

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