John Whitehouse, managing director of First Choice Group, was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Foodservice Industry award at the Foodservice Equipment Association's conference held earlier this month.
The award, now in its 27th year, is presented in association with The Caterer and recognises those who have had a significant positive impact on the industry during their career.
Whitehouse began working in the catering equipment sector in the early 1990s. In 1999 he moved on from his role as general manager at Electrolux Commercial Services and founded First Choice Group with Carl Bate. Since then, the company has grown to become the UK's largest stockist of genuine OEM spare parts, accessories and consumables, processing over 1000 orders a day and employing 160 staff.
An active supporter of the FEA for many years, John joined the council in 2009, became vice chair in 2016 and, as chair in 2019, oversaw the rebrand from CESA to FEA. A committed family man, he is also a selfless fundraiser for charity and volunteers at his local food bank and hospice.
"It is not often that we come across someone who can truly be described as a game changer, but without question John is a true game changer in our industry," says FEA chair Paul Anderson. "John's passion, commitment, enthusiasm and energy has helped First Choice grow from a small Midlands-based export business to a global distributor that turns over in excess of £40m, and a stockholding valued at £9m."
This year's FEA awards also saw the launch of the Chairman's Awards, which recognise those whose distinguished service and hard work has maintained and enhanced the industry's professionalism and integrity to ensure a better future for the foodservice industry as a whole. Nine people were recognised for this inaugural event. The winners were Malcolm Harling, Peter Jarrett, Martin Keay, Phill Mills, David Riley, Iain Munro, Nick Oryino, Julie Barker and ex. Serviceline MD and FEA vice chair, Stephen Elliott.
Pic cap: John Whitehouse, centre, with Paul Anderson and Lisa Jenkins, managing editor of The Caterer.