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Food entrepreneur makes £275m from predicting the future

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Storey is not your typical entrepreneur. He spent 25 years comfortably working for catering firm Sutcliffe Catering, progressing through the ranks to group managing director and doubling turnover at the business from £500m to £920m.

But, in 1999, he realised that the company he’d served for a quarter of a century was changing. “It lost its focus on customer service,” he says. “It became purely financially driven and the quality of product declined. To save money, the supply chain had been narrowed down. The food we served to customers just wasn’t as interesting any more.”

Storey spotted a gap in the market. While the other businesses in the sector streamlined their supply chains, cut costs and leaned towards ready-made, bought-in products, he went the opposite direction.

He founded catering firm Wilson Storey with business partner Keith Wilson in 2000. From the outset, virtually all raw ingredients were sourced from the UK (“Except things like exotic fruit and coffee,” he says. “Unfortunately there aren’t many coffee plantations over here.”) The plan was to reach a turnover of £100m In ten years. “But, as luck would have it, we got there by 2004,” he says.

“It was incredibly helpful that we spotted this trend in the market,” he continues. “And there’s also the big issue around sustainability now. Our business model helps clients green their supply chain. When we buy beef from Hampshire, we tell them its from Hampshire and just how many food miles its travelled.”

This strategy has netted the firm a predicted 2008 turnover of £275m.

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