Wilson reveals lofty ambitions in celebratory 20th year

National contract caterer, Wilson Vale is celebrating its 20th year in business with lofty ambitions, following a year which has seen turnover increase by 6.5% and a healthy forecast of 25% growth in gross profit for 2022.

Led by joint managing directors David Anderson and Phil Hindmarch, the business is firmly focussed on achieving continued, sustainable growth in both the business and industry and independent school markets.

Wilson Vale employs over 650 people, specialising in high quality catering, mainly within the business and industry, private education and conference venue sectors. Putting purpose ahead of profit, they continue to cap new client gains at ten per year, adding value rather than volume with exciting and meaningfulnew partnerships.

David commented, “Our secret is our consistency – we will never lose sight of what we currently have to chase turnover. We forge lasting client partnerships that from day one to the present day have the same amount of importance and dedication invested into them.

'This means that our retention rates are something we are incredibly proud of. We still have our first ever client and still operate four out of the first five contracts we were awarded. Of our existing clients that went out to tender over the five years up to 2022, we retained almost 90% of contracts.

“It is the commitment we make at site level that drives our retention and growth. We make sure conversations remain predominantly around food and people. The number of maximum sites each of our area managers look after remains unchanged at ten, allowing them to visit their clients at least fortnightly.

'They spend their time focussing on high quality support, developing the offer and nurturing our people. If we get these things right then the numbers fall into place and this has been our approach for 20 years.”

Ingredient quality remains at the forefront of the Wilson Vale ethos. The teams work with over 300 British suppliers and this list is growing as teams are encouraged to source responsibly, seasonally and locally where possible.

The group's environmental and social agenda, The Full Works, looks at and develops three areas of the business:
> Nature Works - delivering viable long term initiatives to make catering sustainable
> Nurture Works - focusing on social responsibilities, from supporting sustainable suppliers and start-ups, employee well-being, diversity, equality and engagement;
> Craft Works - a training programme which promotes learning through hands-on practical sessions and mentoring.

Wilson Vale also works hard to attract and retain talented females within the sector and create a workplace that is diverse, inclusive, creative, and supportive. Women remain to be very well represented at Wilson Vale at every level: 71% of its HQ managers are female; 50% of the executive board is female; and 57% of its upper middle quartile of employees by pay is female.

Phil added, “On recruitment it’s important to be an attractive proposition. It’s no secret that the industry is facing significant recruitment shortages and so we’ve had to think long and hard about how we can attract and retain the very best people, not just into our business, but as an industry as a whole.

'We are in the process of renewing our employee benefits package which will offer incentives in addition to those already in place.

“We are continuing to build our relationships with local colleges and are offering placements to the next generation of talent who perhaps did not see contract catering as an obvious route.

'Building a network of trust and engagement with colleges gives us the opportunity to dial into fresh talent and we look forward to speaking to the students at some of those colleges over the coming months to demonstrate to them just how wonderful a career in hospitality can be.”