One of the hospitality's much-loved personalities, David Smithson, will be retiring from his role as chief executive of the Winterhalter Group of Companies at the end of this year.
Smithson grew the Winterhalter and Classeq brands in the UK to their current position within the Winterhalter Group, now one of the UK's premier warewashing brands.
His career started in Bournemouth, where he completed a Hotel and Catering International Management Association course. He was advised to get experience in a kitchen, and after two years working his way across a number of roles and sections, Smithson landed in Bristol, where he joined the irrepressible Keith Floyd, managing Floyd's Restaurant in Alma Vale Road in Clifton.
"Keith was a true raconteur and it could absolutely be said he was the ultimate front man, but he knew that his real strengths were radio and television, where he went on to become a huge personality," explained Smithson.
Smithson joined Hobart in 1973 as a catering specialist before moving up the ranks to sales manager, then group sales and marketing director, a role he held for 17 years.
After a short consultancy period, Smithson was approached by Winterhalter, a business which over 25 years had grown from a £6m base to a £50m group of companies in the UK, covering international markets such as the US, Middle East, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
"Some great people joined me, Brian Croney as service director and Andy Blake as sales director. It was altogether a great team and thankfully customers soon came to recognise that," he said.
"The first 10 years were hard graft. We continued to build the team, products and processes and slowly we won some major pieces of business, such as Greene King, Scottish & Newcastle and Whitbread, which were the bedrock of our customer base in these early days and remained loyal customers for many years.
"New brands were starting up, like Wagamama, Nando's and PizzaExpress, and we managed to get business in that new genre. They ran with us as we were the first to offer extended warranty with life cycle guarantees and fixed rates, but this meant that we had to build our service division fast while ensuring our machines had longevity alongside the back-up to deliver our promise."
Smithson paid tribute to his team, and said: "It's been an incredible delight to have had the opportunity to experience being immersed in all aspects of the hospitality industry and, of course, there has been time to ‘smell the coffee' along the way, while also being serious about the business.
"It has also been a pleasure to have served on the FEA council for many years and to have the honour of being appointed chairman in 2001, which gave me the opportunity to help shape the direction of such a robust industry organisation. I wish Keith Warren [FEA chief executive] and his team all the very best for the future."
The Winterhalter brand will now be the responsibility of Stephen Kinkead and Classeq will be managed by Andy Salter.
Smithson and his wife, Tri, have moved back to Bristol, where his identical twin brother Richard, founder of the Aqua restaurant chain, lives.