Overall ranking: 56 (89 in 2012)
Foodservice ranking: 7 (14 in 2012)
Allister Richards is managing director of Gather & Gather, the catering arm of Mitie Group's facilities management division. He also oversees Creativevents, the exhibition and special events catering business that Gather & Gather bought 51% of in 2012, followed by the balance in 2015 (founder Adrian Willson left the business in July 2016). Key business contract wins and extensions scooped on Richards' watch include Capita, LinkedIn, London South Bank University, Rolls-Royce and Vodafone.
What we think
Richards began his career with seven years in the pub trade as investment manager at Spirit Group before moving into foodservice as managing director for England and Wales at Sodexo Prestige from 2004 to 2010. He was named managing director at Mitie Catering in April 2011, and two years later oversaw the rebrand of the business to Gather & Gather.
The formation of the new business signalled a huge amount of promise, and much has been made of the entrepreneurial spirit he brings to the FTSE 250 company. He oversaw every stage of the rebrand with meticulous attention to detail, reportedly determined to get the company ethos just right before deciding on a new moniker.
Since then he has steered Gather & Gather to pick up some juicy pieces of business that any caterer would be glad to have in its portfolio, not least a £40m, five-year deal with Vodafone, bagged at the start of 2016.
It's not just the business wins that reveal the fruits of his labours. The company has been picking up accolades too, including two Foodservice Cateys in 2017 (Front of House Team of the Year and the HR Award) and, in 2016, three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
For the year ended 31 March 2017, catering accounted for £134.3m of Mitie's £2.14b business, up 6.1% from £126.6m in 2016. But adjusted operating profit was flat due to the contrasting performances of the two catering brands.
Creativevents, which caters at events including Royal Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show and the Farnborough Air Show, was hit by adverse weather and reduced attendance following terrorism incidents across Europe.
Operating within a listed company means not always being able to share your achievements with the world, which could explain the sense that Richards has yet to fully flex his potential as a foodservice business leader. But it also suggests that there is plenty more to come.
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