Lovingly kneaded into reality by its three founders, Wendy Bartlett, Ian Mitchell and David James, bartlett mitchell began in 2000 thanks to a vision to run a catering company that respects and values its clients while also keeping its team and ‘fundamentally food’ principles at the heart of its operations. With a culture based on the personalities of its founders, all of whom are entrepreneurial foodies, the company has honed a ‘can-do’ attitude throughout its operations and built strong, long-term relationships with clients.
“Founded in 2000, the company was a real millennial start-up, Wendy and her business partner Ian Mitchell established the company with a strong belief that food must always come first, however, this cannot be done without an absolute obsession about their teams. They have always maintained a strong focus on team values such as honesty, openness and integrity while also providing a fun place to work where all employees feel they can contribute.”
“This formula worked and today bartlett mitchell operates over 90 locations around the UK. These are predominantly in London and the South East. The company now employs over 800 team members, feeds over 35,000 people a day and is on track to achieve an annual turnover of approximately £35 million in 2016.”
Remaining true to its roots while other catering firms have expanded into facilities management and other sectors, Francois believes this commitment is key to bartlett mitchell’s success and growing customer base: “We are exclusively caterers and operate for cafes, restaurants, hospitality, executive dining and events. We do not cater to a specific demographic, though a lot of our clients are in the B&I sector; other clients are advertising firms looking for something a bit more creative from their caterer. Our customers include, but are not limited to, sectors such as financial, property, media, technology, engineering, charity, retailers, pharmaceutical, legal and government.”
Although it may be easy to think this dedication to the food sector will restrict bartlett mitchell’s expansion or profitable growth opportunities, the company has proven this is not the case with its move into the event and coffee arenas. Having acquired event catering specialist Inn or Out Events in the final quarter of 2014, the company formed a new company, bartlett mitchell Services Ltd, which boasts a combined turnover of £35 million and a team of approximately 800 personnel. “The events business was a natural transition for us as we have been doing events for years through our current business. However, we have found there has been an increasingly larger demand as companies have risen out of the recession in recent years,” says Francois. “This strategic decision has opened up some fantastic opportunities for us and has created a great area for our teams to flex their creative muscles and work in some exciting venues.”
The deal means that bartlett mitchell acquired a new London office and central production kitchens; these will also be used as a base for its new Chef’s Academy for training. Other benefits include increased power to compete more effectively with other caterers and the opportunity to further develop the skills, knowledge and expertise of its personnel.
A more recent development for the dynamic catering firm is its launch of ‘Perkee’, a new premium, sustainable coffee brand, in March 2016. Produced in partnership with Bewleys and the Soppexcca coffee co-operative in Nicaragua, Perkee has been developed to meet customer expectations for a coffee with strong ethics that is also of exceptional quality. With dark chocolate and caramel notes, Perkee coffee is single origin 100 per cent Arabica bean from Nicaragua that is roasted in Yorkshire.
Speaking about the launch of Perkee, CEO Wendy Bartlett said: “The UK coffee market in 2014 turned over in excess of £7.9 billion and we take it very seriously within bartlett mitchell. With Perkee, our customers can drink a great tasting, fair-trade coffee and make a positive difference to the Soppexcca community.” Indeed, Soppexcca’s profits are put back into the education, diversification and health centres of Nicaragua.
Proud to use the finest quality ingredients across all operations, bartlett mitchell believes its supply chain is one of the integral pillars of its success. The company’s purchasing process is based on working closely with suppliers and developing long-term, sustainable relationships that allow both parties to win. “Once we find the right fit, there is a rigorous process where we test the quality to ensure it is fit for our business. We tend to look at promoting British food heroes and try to champion local produce. We seek out ethical sustainable sourcing, food picked in season and ripened on a vine rather than during transport; 80 per cent of vegetables are seasonal varieties from the UK. We also only use free range eggs and MSC certified seafood; these are just some examples of what we look for in a supplier.”
This dedication to sustainable food has resulted in the company winning several awards, such as the Corporate Social Responsibility Award, and a Chef Award. Discussing these awards, Francois states: “The Corporate Social Responsibility Award is huge for us; not only did we win the Food Made Good Caterer of the Year for the third year in a row with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, but we were also awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the Cost Sector Catering Awards. Sustainability and CSR have to be part of your identity to win these awards; it has to pervade every aspect of what you do.” In addition to this award recognition, the company is also accredited with Investors in People Gold.
Having announced a record turnover for the fifth year in a row on April 22nd 2016, bartlett mitchell will push forward with its five-year plan to grow in a measured way and never forget the values and culture that makes it special, as Francois concludes: “We announced a 50 per cent increase in turnover, taking the company to £32 million; we are forecasting £36 million for 2016, which will fully double our turnover since 2012. We will grow to £50 million by 2020 and expect to have 1200 employees; that growth, both in finances and people, will allow us to do more and more of the projects that we have been targeting for some time, but that will have to wait for the next interview!”