Whitco anniversary chimes with prison contract

Northamptonshire-based distributor Whitco celebrated its 20th birthday yesterday by achieving its best ever order book for the coming year, which includes its latest prison contract worth £2m.

“We have been working on this project for almost 2 years; it’s been very challenging, so we are very pleased to be awarded the contract, especially as this is the first super prison of its kind in the UK,” said Tony Butler, Whitco’s commercial and sales director.

This is one of 25 prison projects that Whitco has successfully completed, and that does not include all the refurbishments and smaller schemes that it has been involved in or other privately managed prisons projects over the years.

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Whitco currently employs 30 staff, offering a range of services from consultancy and design through to project management, installation, staff training and after sales service.

The service department is said to offer a truly bespoke solution to its clients. Vita Whitaker, Whitco’s operations director, stated: “We added technical service because one of our largest customers asked us to in 1996. Initially, it was quite hard work as we did not have the conventional ex-engineer heading up the department as many others do.

“So we made a firm decision that we never wanted to be a huge fleet of vans on the road and to pursue a service strategy which has been about planned preventative maintenance and problem solving for our clients. We started saying to our customers that our success would be measured by how little they would see a Whitco engineer in their kitchen.”

The distributor has grown steadily over the last 20 years and is said to have maintained a healthy market and financial position, achieving budgets set year on year despite a long period of recession. According to the company, it continues to gain recognition and growth in the education, care, MOD and MOJ sectors but also keeps a regional and national presence serving a wide range of independent restaurants and other businesses preparing and serving food.

Whitco’s bakery knowledge also seems to have proved advantageous. Jeff Whitaker, the company’s MD added: “I first became interested in bakery equipment and this sector in the mid 80s when I was sales director of another company. They were a bakery equipment supplier and service company, I added the catering equipment side when I joined them.

“I gained a lot of bakery equipment knowledge back then and many of my customers still buy from Whitco today. When coffee shops started opening up everywhere, being able to combine our bakery and catering equipment expertise proved vital in getting these clients equipped with exactly what they needed and they felt reassured by the same commercial and unbiased advice we gave them as we did our catering clients.”

The company is now preparing for the beginning of a new era, with a new structure which will be made public in the New Year and a new strategy to see it through to the next 5 years and beyond.

The offices and warehousing will see both an internal and external revival and its clients should be able to extend the use of the existing demonstration kitchen into private office space so that they can consider their plans before committing to placing an order. Furthermore, the firm will add an interior design service, which it believes will make its offering unique.

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