Pathways: Neel Radia, national account manager of healthcare, Bidfood UK

11 February 2022 by
Pathways: Neel Radia, national account manager of healthcare, Bidfood UK

The national account manager of healthcare at Bidfood UK talks about moving from tourism to retail to foodservice, but always with a focus on people.

Did you study a hospitality-related course?

Yes, I studied a GNVQ in hospitality management at West Herts College before going to the University of Brighton to study a BA in tourism management.

Did you do any work experience in the industry at a young age?

When I was in college, I had one work experience placement at the Bupa Hospital in Bushey, where I helped prepare and serve meals to patients. I also did a placement at Harrow hotel, in housekeeping.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was for Topman/Topshop in Watford as a sales adviser. It started when I was 15 as a weekend job, and I continued working for the group throughout my teens and early 20s as I studied.

What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?

People. I've always been a people person and loved food, so what better industry to work in than hospitality. I took the tourism path for my degree because of my enjoyment of travelling and of working in a customer-facing role. My dream job at the time was to work in attraction management.

What was your first hospitality job?

My first paid job was with Walt Disney World, Florida, as a cultural representative at one of its parks, Epcot. I interviewed for the role in the UK and was given a one-year contract. It was one of the most amazing jobs I have had.

Who was your first mentor/role model in hospitality?

Clare Weeden, my lecturer at the University of Brighton. Clare was one of those lecturers who was so passionate about the industry and really helped me to understand the depth of career pathways the sector has to offer as well as what can be achieved.

How did you decide on your career direction?

I had just finished my year in the States and had the opportunity to start a five-year management programme. However, after 9/11 the tourism industry halted and so did my opportunity to start the programme, leaving me to re-evaluate my career.

I went back to retail and completed an internal management programme to work within the Arcadia group. Around 18 months into this role I was talking to an old colleague from Disney, which made me question if really wanted to pursue the retail route or to go back into hospitality. So, as you do, I had a think about it while backpacking for 18 months around Australia and Southeast Asia on a working holiday.

Talk me through the steps in your career in hospitality

On returning to the UK, I joined Raj Foods as business development manager where I spent 14 years. From here I joined Brakes Foodservice (part of Sysco) and am now national account manager – healthcare at Bidfood UK.

Have you embarked on any additional career development?

I'm proud to have served on a voluntary basis as national chairman of the National Association of Care Catering and on the London branch of the Institute of Hospitality as deputy chair. Personal career development is an ongoing process, and every role in a career enables you to develop and learn new things. Both the NACC and IoH roles on top of the day job have enabled me to grow as a person while progressing my career.

Do you have any regrets?

No. Every path we take helps define who we are. I sometimes wish I had pursued working in tourism after I got back from travelling; but if I'd done that, I would not have had the amazing experiences I have had, nor met some of the most incredible people.

What advice would you give someone new to the industry?

Don't be afraid to explore different roles. Working in hospitality does not restrict you to the obvious hotel and restaurant roles. There is great depth in the hospitality ocean – there are roles in hospitals and care homes as well as fantastic opportunities in areas such as finance, revenue management, sales, HR and procurement, which might not always get attention but play a big role in all hospitality businesses. And be proactive: if you see a brand or leader you want to work for, tell them why and how you think you could add value to their business.


2021-present National account manager – healthcare, Bidfood UK

2020–2021 Framework account manager (public and consortia), Brakes UK

2018–2020 Regional account executive – independents, Brakes UK

2013–2019 National chairman, National Association of Care Catering (NACC)

2007–2013 South-east regional chair, NACC

2005–2018 Business development manager, Raj Foods

2002–2004 Concession manager, Arcadia Group

2000–2001 Cultural rep, Walt Disney World, Florida

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