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‘I wouldn’t change a thing!’ – Winterhalter’s David Smithson reflects on a lifetime in the industry as he bids farewell

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Industry stalwart David Smithson has been reflecting on his 40 years in the catering equipment sector ahead of his retirement at the end of this year.

The CEO of Winterhalter Group in the UK, which also includes the Classeq brand, is synonymous with the warewashing sector and is well-known across the industry.

He said he will leave the industry with so many highlights to look back on.

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“It’s been an incredible delight to have had the opportunity to experience being immersed in all aspects of the hospitality industry and of course there has been time to smell the ‘coffee’ along the way whilst also being serious about the business.

“I should also like to thank our customer base for the faith that you have placed in us that has been key to our success and the mutual respect within these relationships across the broad spectrum of national accounts, distributors and consultants.

Smithson started his career in the hospitality sector by completing a HCIMA course at Bournemouth’s Hotel & Catering College.

From there, he headed to Sweden to put his learnings into practice and two years later, having cut his cloth, he managed Keith Floyd’s Alma Road restaurant.

In the 1970s he joined Hobart as a catering specialist before moving up the ranks to sales manager and later group sales and marketing director. He spent 17 years there before accepting Winterhalter’s offer to take over as CEO.

Over the next 25 years he grew the business from a £6m base to a £50m group of companies in the UK covering international markets such as USA, Middle East, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

He said: “I took a look at Winterhalter and really liked the culture and agility that was clearly part of the business philosophy. It was absolutely ripe for development as a well-respected brand owned and managed by a strong family unit that actively encouraged entrepreneurial thinking combined with a group board that was also prepared to seriously invest in product development, a service organisation and most importantly talent.

“Some great people joined me – like Brian Croney as service director and we built a national service network from scratch which is still one of the best in the business today. Andy Blake took on the role of sales director. It was altogether a fantastic team and thankfully customers soon came to recognise that.

“We were the first to offer extended warranty with life-cycle guarantees and fixed rates, but this meant that we had to build our service division fast whilst ensuring our machines had longevity alongside the back up to deliver our promise.”

The late 90s were a tough period for the industry after a couple recessions, which led to Smithson finding a way for the business to access the price-sensitive end of the market.

“We realised that when we looked at the customer opportunity pyramid that whilst Winterhalter was right at the top of that game, there was a real need that spanned two thirds of the market for smaller, more compact, and value-based machines – hence Classeq was born, which has grown to be a major force in UK hospitality warewashing.”

Smithson’s expertise has also benefitted the wider industry over the years, due to his involvement with the FEA, or CESA as it was at the time.

“It has been a pleasure to have served on FEA council for many years and to have the honour of being chairman 2001 and the opportunity of helping to shape the direction of such a robust industry organisation and I wish Keith Warren and his team all the very best for the future,” he said.

Following his retirement, the Winterhalter baton will be handed to Stephen Kinkead and Classeq to Andy Salter.

Meanwhile, Smithson and his wife, Tri, have moved back to Bristol where identical twin brother Richard lives – founder of the Aqua restaurant’ chain.

Smithson concludes: “If I could do it all again – I wouldn’t change a thing! Well, maybe a few things but not much…”

Tags : david smithsonwinterhalter
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

12 Comments

  1. Pleasure to have known David for many years, working hard and socialising even harder, but always with a smile . There have been many great people that help make our industry what it is over the years and David is definitely one of them ! Banter a specialty and oozing professionalism at all times, it has been a pleasure to know you David, enjoy your retirement , well deserved.

  2. Well David what can I say!! it can only be all positive… you will be missed sooo much in our industry. Its been an absolute pleasure to know you. A professional to the end. Enjoy your retirement David – very well deserved. xx

  3. David- you have made the industry a better place and certainly more interesting! Always good to have you in the room. A well deserved rest is due, well played and all the best.

  4. David it has been a pleasure to have worked with you and I’m proud to know you as a friend
    The sails meeting will will continue and I expect you to attend.
    Enjoy the next chapter and I look forward to being included

    Have fun

    Jeremy

  5. It was an honor to work with you at both Hobart and Winterhalter, enjoy your retirement, as I am sure you will, and if you are ever this side of the pond the kettle is always on, also a good bottle of red!
    Enjoy David,
    My very best regards,
    Adrian Wood

  6. Dear David it has been a great pleasure to have spent time with you over the years and to have enjoyed some lively beers with you too. Your contribution to our industry has been immense and your legacy will remain from the work you did with CESA now the FEA. Good luck for your retirement, although perhaps a small libation in the future post lockdown to properly celebrate your retirement will be in order.
    Kindest regards

    Frosty and Tracy (Trac)

  7. Definitely one of the Industry stalwarts who will be sorely missed by all – very best wishes in your retirement David.

  8. David
    Congratulations and am delighted for you
    We had some fun didn’t we.
    See you soon for a catch up.
    Stoke that AGA
    Andy

  9. David whether in Business or just pure pleasure get togethers always a good time. You made so many friends and we all have such memories. Thank you so much, and I look forward to seeing you in the future for a libation or three. Nick

  10. Well done Dave.
    Truly to be missed. All my bedt.
    Looking forward to werking with you again soon.

    All my best.

    Malcolm

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