After 43 years working within the foodservice industry, yesterday David Freeman retired and left his position as group support manager with C&C Catering Engineers.
Freeman first started as a field service engineer with Tack Service back in 1977. The national independent service organisation offered one number for service on commercial catering, refrigeration and later on deep cleaning within commercial kitchens. Staying with the company for 10 years, Freeman was promoted from service engineer to London service manager, successfully running the service division with over 30 service engineers under his control.
After an invitation from Robin Clark, former MD of WM Still, Freeman was recruited to promote and sell the service division of the firm, Still Tech, selling and account managing to national and key accounts and also supporting the sales team.
Following the acquisition of WM Still by Hobart, Freeman and a colleague decided to start their own company, Pearl Catering, and although the company traded well, the partnership failed. He was then quickly snapped up by Electrolux Service.
A chance meeting during this time introduced Freeman to Total Gas Marketing, part of Total Oil GB, which wanted to set up a service and maintenance offering to its gas customers from central heating boilers to commercial catering equipment. He took the opportunity in 1994 and assisted with introducing Gas Plus which was a service and maintenance product offered to Total’s customers throughout the country.
The lure of solely being involved with commercial catering equipment was still apparent so Freeman again joined up with an old Hobart colleague, Clive Yarwood, and his partner Mark Barnes at Catering Connections, part of the Barnwood Group. There, Freeman was appointed MD of the company’s service division, Caterserv, in 1999.
He commented: “Working for the Barnwood Group changed the way I worked forever. Clive and Mark taught me to be proactive in a reactive industry; the demands and pressures of Catering Connections key accounts ensured I was always one step ahead.”
However, Freeman was missing that B2B face to face contact with clients, therefore when Nick Oryino, MD of Carford Group, asked him to join the firm as national contracts manager there was no hesitation in moving over to its management team in 2005.
The next stage of his career came about after a chance meeting with Steve Elliot, MD of Serviceline, who asked Freeman to account manager 140 prisons in England and Wales, a job which Elliot was doing at that time, in 2013, as well as running the company.
Freeman recalled: “Having never been inside a prison I found the idea intriguing, and decided to take up the position only because at the time the rumour was that JLA was about to purchase Carford, a rumour that eventually became true.
“Account managing in prisons is probably the most difficult job I have ever done, but with such a huge account for service and group sales it was extremely important for the business. When Steve left the business, it was not the same company and the importance of the account wasn’t what Steve had left in his legacy.”
Freeman’s next role was as business development manager with the Airedale Group, starting in 2017. “I never liked the title business development manager, as those jobs don’t seem to last long and in this case it was true,” he commented. After Airedale lost a large service contract which he was not managing, he was made redundant.
It was at this point in 2018, that Peter Kitchin, MD of C&C Group, approached Freeman.
“Peter took me on at the ripe old age of 64 years of age, having an excellent reputation within the foodservice equipment industry,” said Freeman. “Peter added that his father was still working well over retirement age and if you got it then you can still use it. So, my final two and half years have been as the group’s support manager, changing the strategy of the service division.”
He commented: “I feel proud to leave C&C Engineers in such a buoyant and strong position in the market, having just had the most successful 6 months in contract sales; even more incredible in the current pandemic – what a way to bow out!”
As for the future, he teased: “Could I be tempted out of retirement? With a young pup on her way I shall have some time to train her, and if my wife hasn’t had enough of me, never say never.
“Respect to Robin Clark (former MD of WM Still) David Kirk (former WM Still contracts director who always made me laugh) Graham Skinner (Serviceline sales director, a gentleman and a scholar) also to all of my colleagues within the industry and clients who over the years have become good friends.”