Three BaxterStorey stars win coveted Acorn Award

Greenhithe’s Tabitha Kirby and London-based Lily Bell and Ryan Percopo have been announced as winners at the 2022 Acorn Awards, held at Rudding Park, Harrogate between 29-30 May.

The three hospitality stars were celebrated for their contribution to BaxterStorey, the UK’s leading hospitality provider, where Tabitha currently works as general manager, Lily as an account manager, and Ryan as an executive chef.

Starting her career as a waitress, Tabitha (pictured left) has quickly risen through the ranks at BaxterStorey, and now plays an important role in engaging with the Social Bite enterprise, working hard to end the cycle of homelessness and bring people back into long term and meaningful work within the hospitality sector.

Work within the community and promotion of the industry has long been a passion of Tabitha’s, having worked with BBC Online and BBC Radio Kent to promote the hospitality industry amongst young people.

During lockdown she turned her attention to cooking meals for the doctors and nurses at Darent Valley Hospital twice a week, and with support from her family, she delivered a staggering 5,400 meals to front line doctors and nurses - all whilst supporting local suppliers such as Belazu, Yes Chef, and DDP, many of which were left with surplus food stock after the lockdown, to ensure nothing went to waste.

At just 24 years old, Tabitha’s career progression is impressive. When BaxterStorey won the contract in Shoreditch, it was very clear that there was only one person for the job.

Tabitha was tasked with mobilising and launching the hospitality business for the online retail giant which she did with style, growing the workplace food sales by over 50% (£36.5k) in her first month. Upon moving to the Shoreditch office, Tabitha transformed the client experience by building online booking systems.

After her success, she was quickly promoted to general manager, increasing spend per head by 45% and making the site profitable for the first time in the contract’s history.

Tabitha commented, “I am extremely grateful to have received such a prestigious award, and it’s amazing to have been recognised by my manager, Amelia.

'My journey has never been about awards but more about doing something I genuinely feel passionate and proud of, and I’m looking forward to channelling my creative energy and passion for supporting others and promoting hospitality as an amazing industry to be a part of.”

Since joining BaxterStorey as a trainee manager in 2017, Lily Bell’s progression has been outstanding, rising from department manager to deputy manager, to her current role as an account manager. Aged just 28, Lily (pictured right) now heads up a team of 32 employees, as well as studying her Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship.

Among her accomplishments, Lily has gone above and beyond to add value to her team. Throughout the pandemic, to lift morale, Lily encouraged her team to give back to the local community and created volunteering days (instead of furlough days) for team members to support a local food bank.

She is also a trained mental health first aider providing wellbeing support in her location, which led to her becoming BaxterStorey’s first ‘patch wellbeing and mental health ambassador’.

Commenting on her win, Lily said, “I feel incredibly proud and honoured to have won an Acorn Award. It’s such a prestigious industry accolade, it’s been a career goal of mine for many years.

'Since joining Baxterstorey I have been fortunate to work in a brilliant team, have great line managers and inspirational mentors and I’m thankful to the business for their support and allowing me to flourish and develop into the manager I am today.

'I love the hospitality industry and to be recognised for my work and commitment is just fantastic!”

Ryan (pictured centre) joined BaxterStorey in 2013 as a commis chef before being promoted to chef de partie at one of BaxterStorey’s most prestigious contracts in London. He then worked his way up the ranks from sous chef to group retail head chef, all before the age of 24.

In this role, Ryan was responsible for five kitchens and a team of 15, producing retail, fine dining, a la carte and events hospitality for 800 covers a day. Ryan’s ambition to become an executive chef came true after being headhunted for the role in 2019.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty over the last two years, Ryan remained positive and kept focused on his long-term plan, concentrating on future-proofing his location and securing a future talent pipeline.

To name a few of his achievements, he donated £1,000 worth of surplus food from his kitchen - following its closure due to the pandemic - to The Felix Project, a charity fighting hunger by delivering surplus food to those in need, as well as increasing revenue across his contract by 19% in just two years.

Ryan commented: “Winning an Acorn Award has been a career goal of mine and I was shocked when I found out the news! I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with some amazing people and had great mentors within the business who have supported me and given me the opportunity to progress.”

Sarah Miller, Regional Managing Director at BaxterStorey, added, “It has been fantastic to see three of our hospitality stars win these prestigious awards. Tabitha, Lily, and Ryan have made an outstanding impact at BaxterStorey.

'We are extremely proud to see their determination, commitment and commerciality recognised at this year’s Acorn Awards. As well as playing an integral role in helping our business succeed, all three winners have gone the extra mile to drive innovation and consistently show great leadership in the care for their teams.”

The Acorn Awards, affectionately known as the 30 under 30, seek to recognise the brightest prospects in the hospitality industry. Past winners represent every sector of the hospitality industry and have been nominated by their peers for making an impression in their sector.